Archives for June 2013

#FatblasterFriday | 5 favorite ab exercises

Hip, hip, hooray; it’s finally Friday!

Today, I’m sharing with you my 5 favorite ab exercises, because , hey, everybody loves to work their core!

 Fitknitchick’s 5 Favorite Ab Exercises

favorite ab exercises

Designed to require no equipment (although a yoga mat is always nicer for core work than the floor and adding a single dumbbell to the workout will make it a bit more challenging…), there’s really no excuse not to do this workout with me!

Rather than count reps (I get tired of counting reps, don’t you?), today we’ll be timing our workout.

Perform each exercise for 30s before immediately moving on to the next. Make sure to watch the inset videos for exercise progressions and modifications. And if you have an extra 5 minutes, repeat the circuit for a 10 minute burn.

Feel free to combine this workout with one of my other real time #FatblasterFriday videos. Arms, legs, whole body; it’s up to you!

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.

Achilles tendonitis and step aerobics | hoping step is NOT my Achilles heel

My favourite group fitness class to teach is step aerobics. I love the music, the choreography, the sweat and the fun of teaching new patterns to my class participants.

Achilles tendonitis and step aerobics

Last week, however, step class didn’t love me. In the middle of an ‘L’ step-knee repeater combo I felt a twinge in my left Achilles tendon (the tissue that attaches your heel to the back of your leg).

It started as a dull ache at the back of the heel, most pronounced when stepping back and off the step, but also during jumping jacks, speed skaters, grapevines and lunges. And quickly progressed to full on, tender-to-the-touch pain.

I did what any other instructor would do with a potential injury-in-the-making and 30 minutes of class left to teach; reduce the impact, switch to verbal instruction and modify my lesson plan on the fly. My class was thrilled to spend an extra 10 minutes on abs 🙂 (If you love core training as much as they do, you’ll want to make sure you see this week’s #FatblasterFriday workout video!)

I spent the rest of the day alternating between hobbling around and icing the back of my foot. The pain was even worse the next morning; it took me a good 15 minutes to be able to comfortably walk with both heels on the floor. And of course, my right heel decided to join in, just to keep the left company, I suppose.

Achilles tendonitis and step aerobics

A quick search of Dr. Google (with corroboration from a physiotherapist friend) identified my injury as ‘Achilles tendonitis‘.

Primary causes of Achilles tendonitis include overuse of the foot, improper body mechanics, poorly cushioned shoes, excessive hill running and sudden stops and starts.  Achilles tendonitis is common among runners, dancers, STEP CLASS participants and basketball players.

Since I’m not a runner or a basketball player, I regularly alternate between two pairs of relatively new and well-cushioned shoes, and I think my body mechanics during exercise are pretty good (but of course, we can ALL improve…), the culprit is likely too much step aerobics.

Treatment suggestions include icing 3-4 times each day (check), stretching out tight calf and ankle muscles (check) and taking a break from the activity that caused the injury (NO!).  It’s also advised to avoid sitting for too long (another reason besides accumulating 10 000 steps a day to get up from my desk more frequently).

Thankfully, I’ve already scheduled two weeks away from teaching; serendipity has me heading to a fitness and health blogger’s conference in Portland tomorrow (Fitbloggin, here I come; follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see photos and updates in real-time!) followed by a long, holiday weekend (Happy Birthday Canada!).

I’m hoping that avoiding all movements that trigger the symptoms during that time will leave me ready to head back to class mid-July. Cross your fingers for me?

Have you ever had Achilles tendonitis?

If so, what sport or activity caused it? How long did it take to recover from? (PLEASE tell me ‘2 weeks’…)


What to do when your trainer’s on vacation | 5 tips for staying on track

It’s summer. The time of year where everybody goes on holidays. Doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers. Even your favourite group fitness instructor and personal trainer.

what to do when your trainer's on vacation

Shocking, I know. But even fitness professionals need to take time away from the gym, to rest, relax and recharge.

This sumer, I’ll be taking a bit more time off than usual. In part, because I have a book deadline quickly approaching (more details soon, I promise!), but also because, for the last few summers, I spent so much time juggling my schedule to work around clients’ holidays, kids’ camps, gym closures and other instructors’ vacations that I struggled to get my own workouts in.

When September finally arrived, I was exhausted and felt like I hadn’t had a summer holiday at all.

I’m prepping my clients for my time away and thought I’d share some tips for what to do when your trainer’s on vacation.

  1. ask for an easy-to-do-on-your-own program. If  you’re fortunate enough to see a trainer 2 or 3 times a week, you may never have been given a program to do on your own. Ask your trainer to write up a program for you to do in her absence with clear, easy-to-follow instructions. I find that my clients do best without me when I include their favourite moves and avoid complicated exercises that require constant cuing and prompts.
  2. create an exercise schedule. Accountability is a big part of the service I provide for my clients. Simply scheduling a weekly or twice weekly session with me is often all the motivation they need to get to the gym. Ask your trainer to help you create an exercise schedule before they leave town. Include your usual session day(s) and time(s); you’ve already committed to exercising then!
  3. use your trainer’s absence to try something new. Is there a group fitness class that you’ve been thinking of trying out? A new exercise DVD that your friends have been raving about? A 2 for 1 deal at the local yoga studio? Now’s the perfect time to break out of your routine and try something a bit different.
  4. find a substitute trainer. If you really can’t work out without a trainer (perhaps you’re uncomfortable going solo in the gym or just know that you won’t get there on your own without someone waiting for you), arrange a substitute. Talk to your trainer about this in advance; not only will they know which colleague to pair you up with, it will also prevent the possibility of a misunderstanding and hurt feelings (trainer’s have feelings too 😉 ).
  5. plan your rest or ‘de-loading’ week to sync with your trainer’s vacation. If you’ve been working hard in the gym and following your trainer’s advice about nutrition and progressing your training, taking a week’s rest from formal exercise might be exactly what you need. Talk to your trainer, several weeks in advance, about the pros and cons of taking a week off while they’re on holiday.

Bonus tip: Subscribe to my YouTube Channel and exercise with me, in the comfort of your own home! My #FatblasterFriday playlist has dozens of real time, low equipment workouts that we can do together!

Remember that although your trainer is there to educate, encourage, coach and guide you, it’s YOUR fitness journey.

what to do when your trainer's on vacation

[A note to personal trainers: It’s okay to place your own needs first. You can’t help others if you’re feeling depleted and burnt out. Show others that you value self-care and they will too! Don’t feel guilty about leaving your clients. They are grown ups and need to be responsible for their own health. Sure, set them up for success in your absence, but remember that your ultimate goal is for them to become independent exercisers]

Do you have any tips to add to my ‘what to do when your trainer’s on vacation’ list?

What do YOU do when your trainer’s on vacation?



Hormones and weight gain after 40 | The biology of aging

Yesterday, I asked my Facebook group for a writing prompt for today’s blog post. What fitness and health issues did they want to explore? Were there topics that they’d like me to research and share information about? Any exercise road blocks that they needed help navigating around? (At least that’s what my status update implied…)

hormones and weight gain

Those that responded were almost unanimous in their preferred topic: Why is it so much harder to lose weight and make gains in the gym as you age? Or in their own words;

“talk about that point in your mid 30’s when your body turns against you and your metabolism changes and you have to work harder but you’re more tired and any small amount of salt makes you blow up like a blowfish…yeah, talk about that…”

“Do you have to work out double [or] triple [the time] as you get older? Or other tricks to the lower the time you need to work out available.”

“…seems like the past few years I need to put in even more time at the gym…..but maybe I have been slacking a bit too much in the diet area”

“But shouldn’t long endurance workouts still be part of a fitness regimen??”

“What’s up with hormones and weight gain after 40?”

As a recently turned 46-year old woman who’s most definitely smack dab in the middle of peri-menopause AND as the personal trainer of dozens of women with similar questions and physical challenges, this is a subject that’s NEAR and DEAR to my heart!

hormones and weight gain

There’s SO much to say about hormones and weight gain after 40 that I can’t possibly cover it all in a single blog post (and that’s saying a lot, ’cause you know how ‘wordy’ I’m capable of being!).

Instead, I thought that we might explore the topic together, over a series of posts, guided by my research (you know how much I LOVE research!) but also fuelled by your comments and responses to the posts themselves.

I’d like to start the series by painting a picture of what naturally  happens to our bodies as we age, in particular, from the mid-30’s to the late 50’s; the twenty year period during which hormones gradually change and menopause is typically reached (a woman is said to have reached menopause twelve months after the cessation of menstruation).

As you read through this list, don’t despair; there are lots of things we can do on the exercise and nutrition front to offset, slow down and in some cases REVERSE the normal trend!

  • from about age 35 onwards, our bodies start to lose lean tissue. Organs (including your liver and kidneys) lose cells and muscles begin to shrink (or ‘atrophy’). Because muscle is metabolically active (meaning that it burns calories, even at rest), reduced muscle mass often results in a reduced metabolic rate.
  • peak bone mass and bone density are reached by approximately age 30. Both decline by a percent or so each year up until the point menopause is reached, at which annual rates of bone density loss increase to 2-3%. For the average woman, this translates into a loss of about 53% of their peak bone density by the time they reach their 80th birthday.
  • body fat increases steadily after age 30 and may increase by as much as 30% by the time menopause is attained. The distribution of body fat shifts from subcutaneous (under the skin, evenly over the body) to visceral (around the internal organs). Visceral fat is known to raise your risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.
  • during the menopause transition, the ovaries gradually stop making the hormone estrogen. Estrogen is responsible for making your breasts grow at puberty and maintaining pregnancy by regulating the levels of another sex hormone, progesterone. When estrogen declines, cortisol and insulin production increase. Both contribute to fat gain, in particular, fat around the midsection.
  • peri-menopausal and menopausal women frequently report changes in their sleep patterns. Difficulty falling asleep, middle of the night waking and insomnia all contribute to lower energy levels and feelings of fatigue. Chronic sleep deprivation is also linked to elevated cortisol levels (and we know what that leads to; see above)
  • on average, women tend to continue gaining weight until about age 65, at which time weight loss occurs due primarily to muscular atrophy (as opposed to fat loss).

If this is the ‘normal path of aging’, is it any wonder that it becomes more challenging to maintain the physique of our early adulthood into our 40’s and beyond?

Of course, many women give up. They read statistics like the ones I’ve shared above and decide that accepting the aging process is easier than fighting it.

While I do believe that we need to be more compassionate with ourselves as we age (i.e., stop comparing your current body to the one you had in your 20’s…), I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel. If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing that you’re not either!

Stay tuned for Parts 2, 3 and 4, in which we’ll explore some exercise, nutrition and lifestyle tools for staying fit and fabulous into our 40’s (and beyond)!

Read Part 2 >> Why nutrition matters ever more now

Read Part 3 >> Exercise for hormonal imbalance

Read Part 4 >> The role of sleep


Please share your experiences with hormones and weight gain (before or) after 40.

Have a suggestion about a topic you’d like to see covered in this series? Fire away!


A Belated Birthday CrossFit Style Workout courtesy of Dai Manuel

My birthday was last Friday.

CrossFit style workout

Two of my friends and fellow fitness professionals ‘gifted’ me with birthday workouts. I thank them both; I think.

Last week I shared one of them (“A Badass Birthday Workout”). Now that I’ve recovered 😉 , I thought I’d share the other.

Dai Manuel, CrossFitter and author of the popular fitness blog The Moose Is Loose, sent me a (surprise, surprise!) CrossFit style workout based on my age.

Meaning that each move in his body weight circuit needed to be completed 46 times.

46 pushups! 46 pullups! 46 BURPEES! and more! Oh my! Never have I wished more fervently that I was still 29…

Rather than videotape myself doing the workout and subjecting you to a painfully long YouTube video (I can tell that this workout is going to take me longer than the 7 minutes that people are willing to watch videos for…) and because it’s been a crazy, chaotic week at home (with little time for video editing) I’ll be doing it today, along with you, just as soon as I finish with my morning clients!

To join me, all you need is a kettle bell or heavy dumbbell, a bar or TRX suspension trainer for inverted rows (my modification for the pull-ups) and a bench or step.

Perform 46 repetitions of each exercise, circuit-style, resting when you need to and moving on to the next exercise when you’re ready. Beginners could break the workout up into 4 circuits of 12, 12, 12 and 10 repetitions, respectively.

CrossFit style workout

Time your workout and tell me, in the comments below, how long it took you to finish!

I’ll be back to report my time later!

And….. I finished it!

Time: 23:20:47

Modifications: TRX inverted row instead of pull-ups 

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.


What’s the best exercise for…? It depends!

If you’re active in the online health and fitness community, you’ve probably seen at least one article or post with the words “the best exercise for…” in the title.

“The best exercise for weight loss”

“The best exercise for six-pack abs”

“The best exercise for buns of steel”

Many of the posts are based on the opinion of the author. (Everybody is entitled to an opinion; I have many!).Some cite scientific research to support their claims. (But beware of statistics; they can be misrepresented and misunderstood).

Very few ever state the underlying assumption: All Else Being Equal.

When I was studying to become a personal trainer, one of my instructors (a well-respected strength and conditioning coach) spent a great deal of time talking to us about the fallacy of the idea that any exercise was inherently good or bad. Sure, some are better than others, but even those that our text books tell us never to teach (behind the head lat pulldowns, for example), have their place in some training programs.

Rather there are exercises that are better (or worse), more (or less) relevant, safer (or riskier) and more (or less) appropriate depending on the exerciser and their unique goals.

The assumption “all else being equal” is rarely, if ever met, hence, there can be no universally-best-exercise for any particular goal.

If there were, I wouldn’t spend nearly the amount of time I do writing individualized exercise programs for my clients. I could create a single program and be done with it! Although many share the same weight loss and muscle development goals, they all have unique bodies, with unique skeletal structures, muscular imbalances, past and present injuries, hormonal profiles and motivation to exercise!

In exercise, as in nutrition, there is no ‘one size fits all’! 

I’d love to create an individualized exercise program for YOU! Check out my online personal training program and let’s chat!






5 tips to get back on track after a week-long sugar binge

Today is the last day of birthday season. Between May 31st and June 10th there are three birthdays in my house. Three birthdays in just ten days.

get back on track

That means three birthday dinners (with wine pairings), three birthday cakes (with ice cream) and a variety of chocolatey gifts (from personal training clients!), loot bag treats (gummy worms and wine gums) and less-than-healthy nutritional choices. (And of course, three readings of Dr. Seuss’ Birthday book; our favourite family tradition!)

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that sugar is my trigger food. Once I start down ‘sugar mountain way’, my ability to resist it gradually weakens until ice cream for breakfast no longer sounds like a horrifying idea. (I haven’t gone there yet, but only because we’re out of ice cream; thank goodness).

Given that (a) the weather is finally warm enough to wear summer clothes, (b) I’m tired of the sugar-induced lethargy and (c) I’ll be seeing 300 fitness friends at a fitness bloggers conference in just over two weeks, it’s time to get back on track.

Want to know my 5 tips to get back on track after a week-long sugar binge?

  1. Eliminate all added sugar immediately. For me, cold turkey is the only way to kick the sugar habit. Sugar is a drug. It stimulates the pleasure centres in your brain. Your brain likes to be happy and does whatever it can to get more sugar.
  2. Drink like a fish. Water that is. Water not only helps to flush your system of toxins, it also keeps your mouth busy and your belly from feeling hungry. My 12 ounce sippy cup is my new BFF.
  3. Eat vegetables for breakfast. Re-training my palate not to expect sweet foods at each meal is critical to overcoming sugar cravings. Thankfully, our kitchen vegetable garden is overflowing with kale, chard, spinach and arugula, making it easy to green up my scrambled eggs and protein smoothies.
  4. Move a little bit more each day. In addition to my regular strength and cardio workouts, I’ll be aiming for 30 minutes of walking each and every day. The extra 2500-3000 steps are not only good for my overall health, it will help me burn an extra 200 to 300 calories per day.
  5. Get a solid 8 hours of sleep each night. When I’m well-rested, my body rarely craves sweet and starchy foods. Sleep is also key to reducing the fat-stimulating effects of cortisol (given that I have three school-age children about to be released for ten weeks of summer vacation, my ‘stress’ hormone level is high enough).

Thanks so much for all of your birthday wishes!

Now I need some good ‘get back on track’ juju. Help a girl out? I’d love it if you’d Tweet me and use the hashtag #nosugar! The more often I’m reminded, the easier it will be!

Do you have any special tricks for getting back to healthy eating after a week or two of indulgences?

Share your best ‘get back on track’ tip below!


#FatblasterFriday | A Badass Birthday Workout

“Happy birthday to me,

Happy birthday to me,

Happy birthday, dear Tamara,

Happy birthday to me!”

badass birthday workout

Last week on Facebook, I suggested to some personal trainer friends and fellow FitFluential ambassadors, that, in lieu of a birthday present, I’d love it if somebody would design a workout just for me. Although I certainly know what exercises I should be doing, sometimes trainers need trainers too!

Less than five minutes later, I had two offers; both of whom I knew were fully capable of kicking my butt. When each asked me how old I was turning, the alarm bells started ringing. Fitness instructors love to design workouts around numbers.

I briefly contemplated lying and telling them I was turning 30, but my conscience got the better of me (and anybody who looks at my about me page and sees that I have postgraduate degrees and three kids could quickly do the math and see me for the liar I was) and I gave up my real age.

46 years young today.

Because I’d like to live to see my 47th birthday, I decided to do one workout with you this week and save the other for next (when the lactic acid finally dissipates and my DOMS is gone…).

Today’s #FatblasterFriday workout comes to you (and me!) courtesy of Shannon of badassfitness. (Now you see why I was afraid). She may look sweet, but man, she’s one tough cookie (just look at those shoulders!).

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 1.13.02 PM

To join me in the “badass birthday workout”, all you’ll need is a set of hand weights (don’t go heavy here; it’s an endurance style workout) and a bench, step or secure ottoman. Feel free to modify the workout by either performing a slightly easier variation of the exercises, or limiting your reps to YOUR age (if you’re older than I am, you can stop at 46 with me; you’re welcome).

Thanks so much Shannon! You know that I was feeling my butt for a good two days after I filmed this workout, right?

Make sure you check out Shannon’s YouTube channel for more challenging, but fun workouts 🙂

badass birthday workout

Did you like the “badass birthday 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.


The ‘10000 steps per day movement’ | keeping track with LifeTrakCore

Disclaimer: LifeTrak noticed me conversing with friends on Facebook about my interest in pedometers and the ‘10000 steps per day movement’ and sent me a LifeTrakCore C200 to track my daily activity (non-knitting activity, that is) and share the experience with my readers. Thanks LifeTrak!

We all know that we need to move more.

Not just vigorous exercise, but frequent bursts of low to moderate intensity movement throughout the day. Taking the stairs, walking to the grocery store, getting off the computer and stretching our limbs more than once every couple of hours.

Studies have shown that people who move continuously throughout the day have better health markers than those who exercise intensely for an hour then remain sedentary for the remainder of their day.

As a person who spends lots of her non-gym hours sitting and writing OR sitting and driving OR sitting and knitting, I was curious to know whether I was falling into the ‘sedentary gym rat’ pattern.

10000 steps per day

Enter the LifeTrakCore C200. A pedometer/heart rate monitor/calorie counter that straps on your wrist and keeps track of your daily movement.

10000 steps per day

For the past week, I’ve kept track of my daily steps, aiming to reach 10 000 steps per day.  I decided not to do anything drastic to make sure I reached my goal; just go about my daily business and let the steps ‘fall where they may’. Since I’m a ‘numbers geek‘, I made you a table to look at. Can you see the pattern?

Screen Shot 2013-06-03 at 4.23.33 PM

What did I learn?

  • most days, my usual combination of working out and training clients gets me pretty close to 10 000 steps per day (one of the perks of working in the fitness industry, I guess!)
  • my step counts are highest on days when I teach group fitness (did you know that you can amass approximately 4000 steps in just an hour long Step aerobics class? Come join us!)
  • spending an hour in the gym, mainly lifting weights, added very little to my daily step count (maybe a good reasons to swap out stationary lunges for walking lunges?)
  • no workout, no walking, lots of writing leads to an appallingly low step count (although technically, Saturday IS my rest day. Should we be striving for 10 000 steps on rest days too???)
  • it’s pretty easy to add an extra 2000 or so steps to my day by just going for a 20 minute walk (although now that the bears are out, I’m not sure how often I’ll be doing this solo…)

I like being able to see my daily activity quantified; not just at the end of the day, but part-way through, when there’s still time to get back on track. Plus, going for a walk mid-day always clears my head and improves my productivity for the rest of the afternoon.

Have you every tracked your daily steps?

What surprised you the most about the experience?

And should we still be aiming for 10 000 steps per day on our ‘rest’ days? 😉