Archives for November 2013

The Lifestyle Accountability Show | healthy living podcasts you can cook and clean to

I follow a lot of fitness and healthy living bloggers.

I love to hear about their experiences. What motivates them. What inspires them. The types of workouts they prefer and their take on the health-news-of-the-day.

Yet no matter how much time I devote to keeping up with my favourites, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to sit at the computer and read.

Other things like cooking and cleaning and family members need to be attended to as well 🙂

Finally, I’ve found a solution. Listen to a podcast while peeling the potatoes! Join me over on The Lifestyle Accountability Show where I’m chatting fitness motivation and healthy living inspiration with hosts Adam and Devon Bate (two fellow Canadians who are also working to make a difference in the lives of those around them).

Grab a cup of coffee (or a paring knife of your own; don’t let me do all the work) and we’ll pretend that we’re making dinner together and sharing our fitness stories.

Make sure that you subscribe to their website so as not to miss out on future shows.

(And if you’re feeling inclined to ‘click’ on links, you could add your name to MY subscriber list while you’re at it; note that I’ve resurrected my old newsletter and will be using this list to share weekly content, including blog posts you may have missed, details about new programs and products, and announcements about upcoming events)

Do you read blog posts or listen to podcasts for healthy living inspiration and motivation?

I’d love it if you’d share your favourite site(s) in the comments below!

Hormones and weight gain after 40 | exercise for hormonal balance

Way back in July I started a 5-part series about hormones and weight gain after 40.

In that post, I highlighted the physical changes that many women experience during peri-menopause and the menopause transition itself. The picture I painted wasn’t pretty and many of you wrote to say that you’ve experienced the changes I described, including muscle loss, weight gain, insatiable food cravings and a belly or ‘muffin top’ that won’t go away

I outlined what I believe (based on research, my experience training many 40+ female clients and what works for my 46-year old body…) to be the four most effective strategies for dealing with hormonally-induced mid-life weight gain; (1) nutrition, (2) exercise, (3) sleep and (4) stress management and promised to write a post about each, in turn.

weight gain after 40

You can catch up on the 2nd instalment of the series here >> Why nutrition matters even more now

Today’s post, Exercise for hormonal balance, represents part 3.

And keep your eyes open for parts 4 and 5; I promise I won’t make you wait another 4 months 😉

Exercise for hormonal balance

We all know that exercise is good for us.

It strengthens our heart, our lungs and our muscles. It helps to regulate blood sugars and fat storage. It improves bone density and stimulates the production of ‘feel good’ hormones. It’s essential for weight loss and weight maintenance.

Indeed, many women experiencing perimenopausal weight gain increase their frequency and duration of exercise in an attempt to ‘out run’ middle-age spread.

The thing is, exercise also creates stress on the body. Not just mechanical (wear and tear on the joints) and muscular stress (aches and pains as muscles repair the micro tears created by exercise), but hormonal stress as the adrenals increase their production of cortisol to keep energy levels high and the body’s various systems running effectively.

While chronically high cortisol levels are never desirable (resulting in extreme fatigue, reduced immune response and low blood pressure, among others), they’re even less welcome in a perimenopausal body whose production of progesterone is at an all-time low.

Why? The adrenals cannot make cortisol without progesterone. The more cortisol they’re required to make to offset stress, the less progesterone will be available to balance estrogen and testosterone. Without the balancing effects of progesterone, excess estrogen often leads to weight gain, in particular, an increase in the body’s central fat stores. Hello muffin-top.

Clearly we need to balance the benefits of exercise with the potential costs of elevated stress. I call this ‘exercise for hormonal balance’ and suggest the following:

  • Lose the ‘more is better’ mindset. Shorter, more intense workouts will stimulate cortisol production less than longer, less intense workouts. Think cardio intervals rather than long, slow runs. If you’re having a hard time letting go of this mindset, think of how many over-40 women you know who’ve trained for a half- or full-marathon and failed to lose or maintain weight despite the volume of their training.
  • Practice efficiency in exercise. Choose compound, whole body movements rather than isolation exercises. Involving more muscles in your workout not only burns more calories (both during the workout and later), it also reduces the length of your training session. I prefer metabolic circuits over body-part splits for myself and my 40+ female clients.
  • Add more non-exercise movement to your day. As cliche as it sounds, taking the stairs, parking farther from the mall, carrying your groceries rather than pushing a cart, hanging the laundry to dry and washing floors all help to increase your metabolism without causing hormonal stress on your body.
  • Engage in formal exercise 4 or 5 days per week. For best results, alternate strength and cardiovascular training days, keeping each workout between 30 and 45 minutes in length.

So what might this look like in practice?

(Recall that although I am a certified personal trainer, the following program is a general one, and may not be appropriate for all individuals depending on their fitness goals, current fitness level and physical abilities).

Monday: Cardio intervals on the elliptical. 30:60 s work:recovery intervals for a total of 20 minutes. Cool down and stretch.

Tuesday: Metabolic strength circuit. 12-15 repetitions of each of the following exercises, in rapid succession, 2-3 times through. Dumbbell squats, pushups, walking lunges, TRX inverted rows, barbell dead lifts and Russian twists on the stability ball

Wednesday: Active recovery. 60 minute leisurely walk and chat with a friend.

Thursday: Cardio intervals on the treadmill. 60:60 s work:recovery intervals for a total of 20 minutes. Cool down and stretch.

Friday: Metabolic strength circuit. 12-15 repetitions of each of the following exercises, in rapid succession, 2- 3 times through. Weighted squat jumps, chest press on the ball, alternating lateral lunges, assisted pull ups, single leg straight leg dead lifts and Bosu abdominal curls.

Saturday and Sunday: Active time spent with family and friends. Perhaps a yoga class for relaxation and meditation.

Next up: Sleep and Hormonal Imbalance


10 Fitness and Nutrition Gifts to give (and receive)

A version of this post first appeared last year on the blog Wish and Whimsy. As Christmas is a mere 6 weeks away and many of us have already started (and perhaps finished?) our gift shopping, I thought I’d update it and share with my blog readers, new and old. Enjoy!

As a healthy living blogger and fitness professional, I love to give gifts with a health and wellness theme.

Things that my friends and family could benefit from, but probably wouldn’t buy for themselves. Nothing so obvious as a gym membership 😉 or a few session with a personal trainer, but fitness and nutrition gifts that will help them make healthier choices about movement and menu on a daily basis.

fitness and nutrition gifts

10 fitness and nutrition gifts to give and receive:

  1. tea pot with a selection of fragrant, loose leaf teas; Both green and black teas are antioxidant rich and thought to have health benefits ranging from metabolic enhancement to cancer prevention. Check out a local tea shop to find a pot that perfectly reflects the recipient’s personality and aesthetic. (I’m loving President’s Choice Chocolate Mint Black tea these days myself; hint, hint).
  2. exercise and nutrition planners; For the person who likes to keep track of their gym routines and food intake. Big chain bookstores carry beautifully bound exercise and nutrition journals, many of which include daily motivational quotes and tips (My Fitbook is just about full…)
  3. magazine subscriptions; whether your recipient is a runner, yogi or weight room junkie, there’s a magazine for them! I like to think of magazine subscriptions as the gifts that keep on giving. (Did you know that both Oxygen and Clean Eating Magazine are back in press?)
  4. fitness-inspired apparel; Those of us who exercise regularly know that just putting on our exercise clothes makes it more likely that we’ll head to the gym. Share your favorite brand with a friend who needs a bit of encouragement and don’t be surprised if she asks to join you on a walk or run!
  5. healthy living cookbooks; Goodbye Betty Crocker, hello Clean Eating! The mouth-watering photographs in the newest healthy living cookbooks never fail to get me into the kitchen. I routinely introduce my personal training clients to my favorite clean eating cookbooks and am amazed at how quickly they are able to turn their health around by just changing the way they prepare food. (Although I do love a good Jamie Oliver recipe every now and then…)
  6. home workout DVD’s; Many people just don’t have the time or inclination to get to the gym. Most, however, are happy to do a bit of exercise in the comfort of their own home. From meditation, to yoga, to kick boxing to strength training, there’s enough diversity in the home workout DVD genre to motivate even the most ardent couch potato on your list. (I haven’t done a workout DVD in forever. I’d love to hear about your favourites!)
  7. weight training gloves; A great gift for friends and family members that visit the weight room regularly or attend group strength training classes. They not only prevent the buildup of unsightly callouses, they’re also great for protecting toes; a sweaty grip is the number one reason weights get dropped in the gym! Available in men’s and women’s sizes and in lots of bright and funky colours! (I just bought myself a new purple and black pair at Target and Superstore is carrying them in pink!)
  8. hand blender; Small, portable and perfect for mixing up healthy, pre- and post -workout drinks. Add a small container of protein powder (whey, hemp or all veggie!) and a few of your favorite smoothie recipes for a personal, themed gift!
  9. foodie finds gift basket; I love to share my favorite foodie finds with friends. This is a great way to introduce your recipient to healthy foods that they might not know about or are hesitant to buy for themselves. Think quinoa, hemp hearts, chia seeds, coconut oil and steel cut oats. Including a sample or two of treats you’ve made with the ingredients is always a selling point!
  10. TRX suspension training system; My absolute favorite portable, whole body, functional training tool! Much pricier than all of the above suggestions, but a worthwhile investment for that special someone! (Thanks so much, but I’ve already got one!)

And of course, don’t forget about my about-to-be-released fitness book! The Ultimate Booty Workouts is more than just a 12-week progressive-resistance training program targeting your legs, butt and core. It’s also a great introduction to strength training for women. Jam-packed with information about;

  • the benefits of strength training
  • why you won’t get big and bulky if you lift weights
  • how to fuel your body for fat loss and muscle gain
  • the truth about cellulite
  • stretching and foam rolling for recovery

You can pre-order your copies today (one for you and one for each of your fitness-loving girlfriends) Barnes and and Chapters/
Did I help make your holiday shopping any easier?

Anything you’d like to add to my list of fitness and nutrition gifts? I’m always in need of new ideas!


More important than being a ‘foodie’? Being a ‘healthy foodie’

Last week I joined in a Facebook challenge to find out how much of a ‘foodie’ I am.

healthy foodie quiz

Click on through to take the test yourself, then come back and share your score in the comments section below

Of the 100 foods listed, I’ve only tried 53. And as such, am not much of a foodie at all.

Now this surprised me, as I (1) live in a city with lots of cultural diversity, (2) love to explore new recipes in the kitchen and (3) like to think of myself as a somewhat adventurous person.

Upon a bit more reflection, I realized the reason why my score was so average.

Of the 100 dishes listed, many were less-than-healthy (Pocky sticks and deep-fried pickles?) or included ingredients that are not ecologically sustainable (caviar and turtle soup, anyone?).

Rather than bemoan my ‘lack of foodie’ status, I decided to create my own ‘healthy foodie quiz’.

Of the 37 items listed below, (1) how many have you tried and (2) how many do you include in your weekly menu plan? Give yourself 3 extra points if any of those items are organic, wild-caught and GMO.

healthy foodie quiz

I’m happy to say that I scored 49 out of a possible 50 points on this quiz (perhaps a bit biased, since I wrote the quiz…). I’ll be adding gojii berries to my shopping list next week.

What does your ‘healthy foodie’ score say about you?

40-50;  You’re a healthy foodie rock star. You know the value of fuelling your body with nutrient-dense foods and are probably a dietician, nutritionist or healthy living blogger!

30-39; While your diet is fairly healthy, it wouldn’t hurt to brush up a bit on the benefits of including more nuts, seeds and healthy fats in your diet.

20-29; Time to get a bit more adventurous in the kitchen, I reckon. Start by adding one new-to-you food from the above photo each week. Search out ways to prepare it; Pinterest is a great place to find recipe ideas.

0-19; What the heck are you eating if you’re not eating the foods pictured above? (And was there an inverse correlation between your ‘foodie’ and ‘healthy foodie’ scores?)

Any other ‘healthy foodie’ items you’d like to add to my list?

Of the items on the original ‘Foodie’ quiz, what was the strangest one that you’ve sampled?


Kinesio tape | What is it and how does it work?

Question: I’m colourful, sticky and am frequently seen on both competitive athletes and every-day gym-goers.

What am I?

how does kinesio tape work

Answer: Kinesio (or KT) tape

I started sporting kinesio tape, earlier this year, after I injured my Achilles tendon.

Despite it’s frequent use by Olympians and professional athletes, many people still have no idea what kinesio tape is and how it works.

Because I tend to match my workout tops to my tape-of-the-day (despite what you may think, living in workout clothes can get a bit boring after awhile…), people often assume it’s a fashion statement. I’ve even been asked what my tattoo is supposed to be of!

how does kinesio tape work

Name that tattoo!

Curious about how kinesio taping works? I was too. So I did a bit of research and discovered the following:

What is kinesio tape?

Kinesio tape is a thin, porous cotton fabric, that, when applied to the skin, helps to support the underlying muscle, reduce inflammation, facilitate improved range of motion and correct misalignments caused by chronically tight muscles (tight muscles can trigger injuries including Achilles tendonitis).

It’s sweat-proof and water proof. You can workout and shower with it on. An application typically lasts 3 to 5 days, as long as you’re careful when getting dressed and towelling off after bathing. Once it starts to roll around the edges it tends to get caught on clothing and peel itself off.

It’s best applied by a professional; either a physiotherapist or chiropractor who’s certified in its use. An improper taping job can sometimes make the injury worse. Besides, depending on where you need taping, you may not be able to reach the spot yourself anyways!

how does kinesio tape work

Even my 11-year old daughter’s been taped! Clearly we are a KT family…

Kinesio tape comes in a range of colours (different colours are indicative of different strength tapes; purple is my favourite) and can be purchased at most shops that sell running shoes and exercise clothes. Expect to pay $20 to $30 for a 4 to 5 m roll (although I’ve been told that you can sometimes find deals online if you know where to look).

How does kinesio tape work?

Kinesio tape has three major functions:

  • it supports injured muscles. Proper taping improves the muscle’s ability to contract even when it’s been injured, thereby reducing pain and fatigue, and protecting the muscle from cramping, over-extension and over-contraction.
  • it improves blood circulation to the injured area and reduces inflammation. Because kinesio tape is applied directly on top of the injured muscle, when you move, the tape, skin and connective tissue move too, pulling slightly away from the muscle and creating space for lymphatic fluid to flow around and cleanse the inflamed tissue.
  • it corrects joint problems. Joints are held in place by muscles. When muscles are either weak or chronically tight, joints are pulled out of their natural position. Over time, misaligned joints can result in pain, poor posture and functional inefficiency. Kinesio tape can improve joint problems by ‘re-teaching’ your muscles to

Tape can be applied in one of two directions depending on the nature and location of the injury.

If the muscle is tight and painful (typical of overuse injuries, including mine), the tape is applied with very little tension, starting at the insertion of the muscle (where the tendons hold the muscle to the bone) and extending towards its origin.

how does kinesio tape work

See how the tape starts by cupping my heel and moving up either side of my calf?

If the muscle is weak and the injury is chronic, support through the entire range of motion is necessary and the tape is applied from the muscle’s origin to its insertion. (See how knowing a little bit of anatomy can go a long way?)

Yes, but does kinesio tape actually work?

For me, kinesio taping has helped reduce the pain and stiffness I typically feel in my Achilles upon rising in the morning. It hasn’t ‘cured’ me (sadly, nothing but avoiding the movements that originally caused it is likely to work in the long run), but does help me to be more mindful of my injury when training (and yes, you can continue training while injured; you just need to avoid the exercises that hurt).

According to PubMed, a recently published meta-analysis of the purported benefits of kinesio taping to athletes both injured and healthy concluded:

there was little quality evidence to support the use of KT over other types of elastic taping in the management or prevention of sports injuries. KT may have a small beneficial role in improving strength, range of motion in certain injured cohorts and force sense error compared with other tapes, but further studies are needed to confirm these findings.

However, some of the studies included in the analysis did demonstrate benefits for rehabbing specific injuries, including Achilles tendonitis.

Given that kinesio taping is a relatively inexpensive and painless treatment option, there’s very little harm in giving it a shot. Perhaps it’ll work for you too, or at the very least, you’ll benefit from the placebo effect

Have you ever tried kinesio tape?

Did it help or hinder your recovery?