Archives for October 2013

Three reasons why it’s not always a great idea to copy others in the gym

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. (Actually, Charles Caleb Colton, 1780 – 1832, said it first.)

I’ve certainly seen a lot of it in my day.

University students ‘borrowing’ papers from friends and colleagues. Bloggers writing about the same topics, using the same words and nuance as their peers. Exercisers attempting moves that they’ve seen others performing in the gym.


While copying others’ moves in the gym won’t result in a failing grade, public humiliation or social ostracization, it may lead to injury, or even worse, lack of progress towards one’s health and fitness goals 😉

In my job as a personal trainer, there have been many occasions when I’ve noticed a ‘tag along’. Someone who’s paying particular attention to a client and myself as we work through my client’s exercise program.

Many a time I’ve noticed the ‘copy cat’ performing the same exercise that I’d just taught to my client; often with too much weight and improper form (I’m a stickler for form…).

And once, the ‘impersonator’, being too far from us to hear my position and safety cues, actually fell off the back of a Bosu attempting to mimic the following exercise. (Watch the video so you don’t make the same mistakes when executing a Bosu Deck Squat and don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ it with your friends. Thanks!).

Three reasons why ‘monkey see-monkey do’ isn’t the best strategy in the gym

  • they exercise you’re copying might not be safe; just because some buff looking guy is pressing 30 pounds overhead while balancing single-legged on the flat side of a Bosu doesn’t mean that you should be too. Risk of injury is ever-present in the gym. Evaluate risk, taking your own fitness level and experience into consideration before trying to mimic a move.
  • the exercise you’re copying might be being performed with poor form; in order to simultaneously get results from a strength training program and reduce the likelihood of injury, movements need to be performed with proper form. Learning to dead lift by watching a novice weight lifter is a recipe for lower back pain.
  • the exercise you’re copying might not be effective; lots of the movements people perform in the gym do very little to improve their fitness. Either their weights are too light or their joints are moving through a limited range of motion at an unnatural angle or velocity.

Your best strategy to finding a strength training program that’s safe, effective and appropriate for YOUR goals is to hire a qualified personal trainer. Most gyms have them and if you’re particularly self-motivated and willing to focus on form before ‘fancy’, I just might have a couple of online training openings in the next month… Send me an email ( and tell me a bit more about yourself, your current fitness level and your short and long term goals.

Yours in health, fitness and safety 😉


5 strategies for reducing Hallowe’en weight gain

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on my blog two years ago. But it’s a good one and still relevant (any many of you weren’t reading me back then anyways…). If you’ve read the original, see if you can spot the differences!

Ever since I was a kid, Hallowe’en has been one of my favorite holidays of the year.

Is it the pumpkins that make it so special? Although I love cooking with pumpkins, I don’t particularly care for carving them (too goopy).

hallowe'en weight gain

How about the costumes? Nope, more stressful than fun really (so much pressure to come up with a really unique, show-stopping costume, year after year).

hallowe'en weight gain

I think we were a witch for 5 years in a row…

What about the fact that you don’t have to buy anybody presents for it? That’s a good one, but not it.

The candy? You guessed it! More specifically, the chocolate.

Mmmmm. Those teeny, tiny squares of chocolaty perfection. There’s chocolate with peanut butter. Chocolate with marshmallow. Chocolate with almonds. Chocolate with coconut. Chocolate with caramel. Chocolate with bubbles. Chocolate with chocolate! Each one, a little bite of heaven in a crinkly wrapper.

hallowe'en weight gain

A little bite with a whopping 40-80 calories and 5-15 grams of sugar!

Not so bad if you only have one. But who ever stops at one? (If you’re one of the few who really and truly can, you need not read any further; the rest of you, whose brains encourage overconsumption, keep reading)

Over the years, I have developed some strategies to save me from Hallowe’en weight gain. Here’s hoping you find something on this list to help you out this year!

  • wait until the very last minute to purchase the treats you’ll be handing out to the goblins and witches that ring your doorbell. Don’t worry that the stores will run out (they won’t) or that you’ll forget (as if you’re children will let you). I used to buy early, but always ended up having to buy ‘replacement’ candy at the last minute (once the big bag is open, my husband loses all sense of self control)
  • don’t buy your favorites. Always give away something you don’t really like. Something that won’t tempt you while you wait for the next round of trick-or-treaters to arrive. Black licorice and gummy body parts are my treats of choice; I wouldn’t eat either unless absolutely starving, and maybe not even then.
  • give generously on Hallowe’en night. A handful or two to each child. Aim to have nothing left at the end of the evening. If you run out early, blow out the pumpkin, turn off the lights and treat yourself to some air-popped popcorn.
  • send leftovers to work with your spouse (not for them to eat, but to leave in the lunch room to tempt their co-workers, evil I know)


  • throw out the extra. Not just in the kitchen garbage. Take it immediately to the curb where you will be much less likely to try and retrieve it later. Imagine what your neighbors would say if they saw you pulling a George Costanza?. If this last one is difficult for you because you grew up in a household where wasting food was a mortal sin, remind yourself that candy is NOT REAL FOOD.

What about the pillowcases full your children will bring home?

hallowe'en weight gain

My strategy is to let them eat what they want for the first week or so (only after a healthy dinner and never packed in their school lunches; teachers have actually thanked me for this) then hide the rest for another week or so (just in case they remember that there’s still some left), before throwing it out.

If you can’t resist sneaking a piece or two, remember to count it as one of your 3 or 4 weekly ‘treats’. Then, go brush your teeth before you cave and raid your children’s stash (81% of parents do!).

Do Hallowe’en treats tempt you?

What’s your favorite childhood candy?



Personal training for personal trainers

Have you ever heard the phrase “doctors make the worst patients”?

I think that sometimes a similar phrase also applies to personal trainers. At least this personal trainer…

personal training for personal trainers

One of you will know where this picture was taken…

Sure, we know to create programs to address each of our client’s unique goals. We’re well versed in the theories of ‘target heart rate’ and progressive resistance training‘. We’ll earnestly tell you how important it is to go to the gym with a written plan in hand and to schedule your workouts like you do your other health-related appointments. We’ll also remind you that the exercises you like least are often the ones you most need to do (perhaps with the exception of burpees; nobody really NEEDS to do burpees 😉 ).

But despite KNOWING how to help people improve their fitness and health, we don’t always take our own advice to heart.

Ever since I came back from the Ultimate Booty Workouts photo shoot, I’ve been wandering aimlessly around the gym.

After an intense focus on exercise and nutrition in the months leading up to the shoot, I found myself without a goal. Sure, I was still exercising (teaching 2-3 group fitness classes each week ensures that I never completely de-condition), but the days that I did head into the weight room, my workouts were lacklustre, low energy and very, very short.

Last week, while talking with an online client about the many benefits of hiring a personal trainer, I had an ‘aha’ moment.

In order to get back on track, I needed my own personal trainer.

Rather than hire somebody else (I tend towards frugality, unless Fluevogs are involved…), I decided to treat myself as if I were my own client (do doctors do this too?). I sat down and filled out the same health history and goal-setting forms that I send to all new clients.

I forced myself to be honest, knowing that my trainer’s job was not to judge, but to make an honest appraisal of my current fitness level and design a program that would help me reach my goals.

This is what ‘she’ came up with. (She’s tough, you know…)

personal training for personal trainers

My clients will recognize this form…

  •  A switch in focus from almost all lower-body training to body part splits. My body responds very well to this type of training, building muscle and shedding fat as long as I keep upping the weights.
  • Two core-focused segments added to the end of days’ 1 and 2 workouts; my lower back has been bothering me occasionally, upon getting up in the mornings and strengthening my abdominals and obliques always helps with this.
  • Sticking with two days of lower body training. I used to hate training legs, probably because they take a lot longer to respond to strength training than my arms. What you don’t love to do = what you need to do.
  • Limiting strength workouts to a maximum of 24 sets, which typically takes me 30 to 40 minutes. My trainer knows that if she prescribes a longer training session, I’ll skip out before the final set 😉
  • Vary reps and sets as follows; Week 1, 3 sets of 10 reps (this is a good baseline setter for me); Week 2, 3 sets of 12 reps (working on increasing endurance and perhaps load for some exercises); Week 3, 3 sets of 8 reps (all exercises get progressed this week); Week 4, 4 sets of 8 reps (perhaps no increase in load, but endurance gets tested); Week 5, de-loading (take a break from this program, engage in active recovery at or away from the gym).

Here are the specifics for my Day 1 program; Days 2 and 3 are similarly laid out, with 4 super-sets of exercises targeting the relevant muscle groups.

personal training for personal trainers

In case you’re wondering, this was a very hard workout for me…

Note that this program covers all the elements of a good personal training program. It’s goal-centric, it’s scheduled, the progressions are built in and there’s an end point in sight. All ‘my client’ needs to do is follow the plan. Hee-hee.

[Note that the above program is designed specifically for me, taking my schedule, fitness level, current injuries and strength training goals into consideration. I’m sharing this program here, not because I think YOU should be doing it too, but because several members of my Facebook group were curious as to how I train and what my 4-6 week progressive resistance training cycle looks like.]

Do you work with a personal trainer?

If not, do you (a) create your own month long program, (b) plan your workouts day by day or (c) just wing it when you get to the gym?

Any personal trainers out there who’ve worked with another personal trainer? I’d love to hear about your experience!





#throwbackthursday | exercise goals then and now

Yesterday, discussion in my Facebook 40+ Female Fitness group got me thinking about how my exercise goals and reasons for exercising have changed over the years.

A lot. 360 degrees. We’re talking sea change here. Yet despite the evolution of my goals, I always managed to prioritize physical activity of one sort or another.

In my teens, I exercised to be thin.

exercise goals

Thin girls were popular girls. Thin girls got invited to parties. Thin girls got picked for the cheerleading squad and dated the quarterback. Although I WAS thin (and a cheerleader), I was also smart. And since smart cancels out thin when you’re a teenager (at least it used to), I didn’t reap the benefits of exercise that I so desired. (But I did get into a great university; not all of the popular girls could say that 😉 ). Clearly, ‘health’ was not on my teen-age radar, as cafeteria muffins and diet coke were all I ate for days at a time.

In my 20’s, I exercised to socialize and release stress.

exercise goals

While the 12 years I spent at university were incredible, they were also a time of loneliness, doubt and sleep-stealing work. Exercise was time away from studying and writing and worrying about what the future would hold. It was also a great way to make new friends. My hubby and I met over our mutual love of squash (the game, not the vegetable); there’s nothing like a squash court for getting up close and personal 😉

In my 30’s, I exercised to get my pre-baby body back.

exercise goals

Three babies in 5 years left me feeling soft and gushy and I can’t lie, I was all about the six pack, buns of steel and becoming a ‘yummy mummy’. Group exercise classes were a great way to get back in shape, while simultaneously stealing a little time away from my busy, growing family. I began to think about exercise and clean eating as a way to remain healthy, though; being responsible for the nutrition of little ones makes eating a whole new experience.

In my 40’s, I exercise for myself.

exercise goals

To feel strong and confident. To be healthy. To improve my sleep. And to be a good role model for my children. Although my workouts are less frequent and less intense than they were even 5 years ago, I’m at a healthy weight for my height and have developed muscles in all the places I yearned for a decade ago. Heck, I even modelled for a fitness photo shoot at 46-years of age! Something I would never have had the confidence to do in my 20’s or 30’s.

I wonder how my exercise goals will change once I reach 50? I guess you’ll have to stick around another 3 1/2 years to find out!

Have you experienced a change in your exercise goals with age?

Are you finding it more or less difficult to reach those goals now, then when you were younger?

What’s your number one reason for exercising?


5 Reasons to Eat More Pumpkin

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll already know that I adore pumpkin.


Not just pumpkin pie (although it, along with pumpkin cheesecake, is one of my favourite desserts, especially with a drizzle of dark chocolate ganache…). Pumpkin quick breads and soups and curries and oats (try my recipe for Pumpkin Protein Oatmeal bars).

They also make a great backdrop for a family photo shoot…

eat more pumpkin

5 reasons to eat more pumpkin

  • Unlike many other starchy carbohydrates, pumpkin is low in calories (26 per 100 g; that’s about 1 cup of cooked, 1-inch cubes), has a small glycemic load (GL = 3) and and rich in dietary fibre (5 g per 100 g). That means that it’ll satiate you, keep you feeling fuller longer and provide fuel for your workouts without significantly elevating your blood sugars and triggering an insulin response. Try some in your pre-workout morning oats.
  • It’s full of Vitamin A, a powerful, all natural source of antioxidants important for maintenance of the integrity of skin membranes and vision. Just 100 g of pumpkin contains a little more than 7,300 mg of Vitamin A; well over 200% of your recommended daily allowance.
  • The seeds are naturally rich in phytosterols, plant-based chemicals which have been shown to improve heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol. They’re also an excellent source of the amino acid tryptophan, which converts to GABA (a calming, feel-good hormone) in the brain.
  • With 546 mg of potassium per cup (as compared to a banana’s 422 mg), pumpkin is a great post-workout electrolyte replenisher. Potassium helps restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a tough workout and keeps muscles functioning optimally. Swap pumpkin for banana in your mid-day smoothie to up your potassium intake without elevating your blood sugars.
  • The key nutrient that boosts pumpkin to the top of the SuperFoods list is the synergistic combination of carotenoids. Carotenoids have been shown to decrease the risk of various cancers, including those of the lung, colon, bladder, cervical, breast, and skin. Just a half-cup serving of pumpkin provides more than 100% of your RDA’s for both beta- and alpha-carotene.

Now that you know WHY you should eat more pumpkin, head on over to my Pumpkin Pinterest Board for some tasty ideas you can whip up TODAY.


Do you have a favourite pumpkin recipe to share? Leave your link in the comments section below!

Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian readers. Are you having pumpkin pie for dessert today?


How to prepare for a fitness photo shoot

prepare for a fitness photo shoot

About 10 weeks ago, I got an email from my editor confirming that I would indeed be one of the models photographed for the exercise demonstrations appearing in my upcoming book (you can pre-order your copy of the Ultimate Booty Workouts now through Barnes and and Chapters/

While I felt very strongly about representing for the ‘over-40 female crowd’ (one of the book’s underlying messages is that women need to strength train for function as well as form), I have to admit that I was also quite apprehensive about the upcoming shoot.

prepare for a fitness photo shoot

What if the other model was ‘Oxygen’ magazine calibre? Would photographs of a woman with a more ‘realistic’ physique sell? What if I embarrassed my inexperienced self at the shoot?

Unsure of how to prepare for a fitness photo shoot, I sought advice from friends, colleagues and a figure competitor or two. I read blog posts and how-to guides and immersed myself in the science of ‘bulking’ and ‘cutting’ and ‘peak week’.

Suggestions included upping my cardio, cutting my carbs, eliminating fruit, taking fat burners and following low calorie diets that relied on specific food pairings to shed weight, fat and water without burning muscle (all while remaining cheerful to be around and capable of helping my children with their math homework…). I tried the low-carb thing last year and we all know how that went…

While I have no doubt that each of these suggestions has merit (and many have been shown to work for physique and figure athletes ‘leaning out’ in the weeks preceding a competition), in the end, I felt that resorting to such focused, extreme and potentially unhealthy measures would completely undermine my initial reason for wanting to be photographed for the book.

If I couldn’t create the physique shown in the book by simply following the programs I’d written and cleaning up my diet, why should readers believe they could (and hence, why should they bother buying the book)?

So then, how DID I prepare for a fitness photo shoot without starving myself and alienating my friends and family?

  • I increased my strength training workouts from three, 30 minute sessions per week to three 45 minute sessions per week (yep, that’s it; an extra 45 minutes in the gym each week and using the butt and leg workouts in the book to make sure my booty was camera-ready)
  • I reduced my intake of starchy carbohydrates from 2 servings per day to 1 serving per day (not even noticeable)
  • I gave up alcohol and dessert for the three weeks immediately preceding the photo shoot (unless you count that 1/2 glass of wine and the creme brûlée I ‘tasted’ while out for a fancy, date night dinner with my hubby…)
  • I kept the frequency and intensity of my cardio workouts exactly the same as always; three, 30-minute sessions of interval-style training per week
  • bought two new workout outfits in styles that flattered my body and colours that brightened my skin
  • I succumbed to last-minute jitters, tried an all-natural diuretic and drank a ton of water for three days before the shoot (other than keeping me running to the bathroom and tiring me out by draining me of electrolytes, it didn’t do a darned thing; muscles looked exactly the same as they did last week)
  • I spent the day before the photo shoot relaxing with a dear friend, went to bed early, then put on my new clothes, sucked in my belly and squatted and smiled for the camera

prepare for a fitness photo shoot

Did you catch my real-time Facebook and Instagram updates? Here’s a montage of some behind-the-scenes videos I took at the shoot (which was so much more fun than I had anticipated. And the other model? Another ‘real’ woman also without experience modelling for fitness photo shoots who enjoyed it just as much as I did! Way to go Nadia!


Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

I’m a great believer in the value of stepping out of one’s comfort zone.

I love to tell my clients and class participants to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s where the magic starts and how we make progress towards our health and fitness goals.

While I frequently step out of my comfort zone in the gym, I rarely do in real life. It’s just easier to stick with what you already know and do well, isn’t it?

That all changes tomorrow.

I’ll be stepping out in front of the camera, wearing nothing more than fitness clothes and a smile on my face, to model the exercise demonstrations that will appear in my soon-to-be released book. Not just a ‘bunch of butt’ workouts, the book is full of information about strength training for women, both newcomers to exercise and long-time gym rats (check back next week for more information and details about how you could win your copy for free).

get comfortable with being uncomfortable

You can pre-order your very own copy through Barnes and Noble,, and Chapters/

Curious as to what goes on behind the scenes at a fitness photo shoot (I know that I am!)? Make sure you’re following me on Twitter and Instagram (I’m fitknitchick_1 on both)and that you’ve joined my Facebook community to catch a glimpse of what I’m up to!

And if you’d like to offer moral support (truth be told, I’m extremely nervous about the whole thing), why not get comfortable with being uncomfortable YOURSELF and do something that’s completely out of YOUR comfort zone.

Share it on your favourite social media channel and tag me so I can cheer YOU on!