Archives for January 2014

Do you need to do cardio if you’re lifting heavy? | question from a reader

Lisa, although relatively new to strength training, has been bitten hard by the weight lifting bug. She lifts heavy, takes appropriate rest days, pays attention to nutrition and has completely re-shaped her body over the past year or so. Yay Lisa! 


Recently, she asked me a question via my Facebook group (not a member? It’s as easy as clicking on this link and ‘liking’ the page);

Do I really, really need to do cardio on off-lifting days?

By the tone of the question, I’m assuming that Lisa doesn’t really like cardio. That she’d prefer to be lifting weights and would be happy if I told her it that cardio was unnecessary 😉

While I’d love it if that were the truth (not a huge cardio fan myself…), there are several compelling reasons to incorporate cardiovascular training into your weekly strength training schedule. Note that by ‘cardio’, I don’t necessarily mean long, slow distance training on a treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike. Different types of cardio can help you achieve different health and fitness goals.

5 reasons you may need to do cardio even if you’re lifting heavy

  • accelerated fat loss. Although there are certainly many body builders and fitness models who maintain their athletic physiques with little to cardio, for those of us still seeking fat loss, strength training and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio are a winning combo. For best results, HIIT should be performed either at the end of your strength training session (so as not to tire out the muscles you’re trying to build) or on alternate days (especially on days where you’re training primarily lower body). The best thing about HIIT? It takes very little time, getting you out of the gym much more quickly than long, slow distance cardio.
  • active recovery. Did you know that low to moderate-intensity cardio is great for active recovery?  While it’s true that your body needs time to recover and regenerate after a heavy lifting session, movement can reduce the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as well as help to maintain joint range of motion. Examples of great active recovery activities? Walking, jogging, swimming, cycling and dancing. Think of your ‘off-lifting’ day as an opportunity to be active outside the gym.
  • stress release. Many people enjoy the therapeutic effects of a trail run or a leisurely outdoor cycle. The repetitive nature of the movements can help reduce tension, release stress and quiet that pesky little voice in your head. Don’t think of it as cardio, but rather, really cheap therapy 🙂
  • increased movement. North Americans don’t move enough. Even those of us who get to the gym to the gym daily, often spend our remaining waking hours seated. Wearing a pedometer has made me acutely aware of how sedentary I am on non-workout days. A 45-minute walk around the block rewards me with approximately 4000 steps; almost half-way to my daily goal of 10 000.
  • habit creation. For many people, the easiest way to create a new habit is to make it a part of their daily schedule. Going to the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while the perfect frequency of exercise for beginners, may not be enough to create the new routine that’s crucial to longterm success. Use those ‘rest’ days to solidify your new routine, opting for low intensity cardio options including walking (either on the treadmill or out of doors), swimming or a cardio dance class.

Which do you prefer? Cardio or strength training?

If you answered ‘strength training’, tell me ‘what’ you do for cardio and ‘why’? 

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 2.10.18 PMUltimate Booty Workouts, while primarily a strength training book, does include cardiovascular training in it’s 12-week program. Want to strengthen and define your derriere? Make sure you’re lifting heavy and including muscle-revealing cardio intervals!

Order your copy today at Amazon.caAmazon.comBarnes and Noble and Chapters/Indigo


Ultimate Booty Workouts | How my approach to fitness helped me write a book

Last week marked the much-anticipated (by me at least 😉 ) launch of my new book, Ultimate Booty Workouts. (Confession, for days I’ve been stalking the online sites where it’s selling, waiting for ‘available for pre-order’ to switch to ‘purchase now’, ‘in stock’ and ‘add to cart’)

Ultimate Booty Workouts

It’s out! It’s really out!


Funnily enough, the most common question people have been asking me, (after “what’s the best exercise for building a better butt?” (there IS NO SINGLE exercise that’ll do it for you; variety is key) and “is that you on the cover?” (nope; but I did model for the photos inside)) is “how did you find time to write a book?”

How indeed? I have three, busy children. I teach group fitness classes and train clients. I blog, write freelance pieces, shoot and edit YouTube videos and keep up (sort of 😉 ) on social media. I knit, read, watch television and spend time with my husband. I even manage to fit in exercise four or five days a week.

I know this sounds familiar because your plate is just as full (if not more so) as mine 😉

The more I pondered this question, the more I realized that my approach to book writing is essentially the same as my approach to fitness. Make time, break it down, schedule it in and get it done.

Ultimate Booty Workouts: how my approach to fitness helped me write a book

  • choose a time frame with a fixed end date. Last spring, I signed a contract with my publisher promising to produce a 35 000 word text by August 1st. Just knowing that their was a ‘due date’ was an incredibly strong motivator. If weight loss is your goal, determine how long it will realistically take you to lose the weight (aim for 1 to 1.5 pounds per week) and circle the end date on your calendar. For those of you following the program in my book, your end date will be 12 weeks from the day you start.
  • break it down into manageable chunks. Instead of focusing on the end product (which scared the heck out of me), I broke the assignment down into smaller chunks and set mini-deadlines for each.  I focused on tackling one small task at a time, knowing that as long as I stuck to my production schedule I’d meet my goal. The same approach works with diet and exercise. Focus on one day’s meals and workouts at a time. Repeat tomorrow and the day after and the day after… Little by little, you’ll creep towards your goal.
  • eliminate distractions. Ironically, the biggest distraction I faced while writing was social media. E-mails, text messages, Tweets and Facebook notifications were constantly drawing my attention away from the task at hand. I quickly learned that in order to meet my writing goals for the day I needed to work offline and with the ringer on my phone set to silent. Determine what (and perhaps, who) distracts you from eating healthily and sticking to your workout schedule. This might mean cleaning out your pantry and eliminating your trigger foods. Or moving your workout to earlier in the day before others’ needs distract you from your own.
  • enlist support. If you’ve read the Acknowledgments, you’ll know that I depended on the support of many friends and colleagues during the writing process. Some were cheerleaders (thanks Carla and Jody), some were sounding boards (thanks Suzanne, Kymberly and Alexandra) and others stepped up to assume my home (thanks honey) and work responsibilities when I feared I was falling behind. Studies have shown that having a solid support system in place is an important predictor of weight loss success and exercise adherence. Join a weight loss group (either virtually on in real life), find a workout buddy, register for a group fitness program or hire a personal trainer to increase your chances of successfully reaching your goal.
  • prepare for roadblocks and setbacks. Despite having created a detailed writing schedule, I didn’t always meet my mini-deadlines. Children got sick. My husband had to travel for work. Other projects, with more immediate deadlines cropped up. On more than one occasion, I succumbed to Facebook. Rather than stress about what I didn’t accomplish, I focused on what I did manage to get done and recommitted the very next morning to getting back on track. Diet slip ups will happen. You’ll miss a workout now or then. Don’t let feelings of guilt and remorse sabotage you. Tomorrow is another day.
  • celebrate small victories. There were many a day when the promise of “knitting once you have a thousand words written” was a powerful motivator. Celebrate reaching your mini-deadlines with meaningful experiences or gifts. Met your weight loss goal for the month? Enjoy an evening at the theatre with friends. Finished the first phase of Ultimate Booty Workouts? Treat yourself to a new pair of workout shorts.
  • enjoy the process. As wonderful as it is to hold a copy of the finished book in my hand, that feeling of accomplishment and pride lasts only a few moments when compared to the amount of time spent in the process of creating it. Enjoying the process is key to reaching any goal, be it weight loss, improved fitness or your first book.

I’d love to know what strategies YOU use to help you reach a big, long term goal (be it health and fitness or otherwise)

Ultimate Booty Workouts can be purchased online through,, Chapters/Indigo and Barnes & Noble.




6 tips for getting through the January gym rush

“It was the best of times (January at the gym), it was the worst of times (January at the gym)” (with apologies to Charles Dickens).

Along with New Year’s Resolutions come busy gyms and over-packed group fitness classes. While I love the hustle and bustle of the January gym rush (new group participants! new clients! so many opportunities to share my passion for fitness with others!), I appreciate that not everyone enjoys queuing for a cardio machine or waiting for the squat rack.

Rather than let a crowded exercise space undermine your workout high, follow the tips below to get through the January gym rush.

  • Get out of the gym. If you really can’t stand the crowds, find something else to do. Hit the swimming pool or the local skating rink. Grab a friend and go for a run. Beg, borrow or buy an at-home exercise DVD or workout book (January’s a great time to build a better butt, hint, hint 😉 ). Quit your complaining and come back next month. The gym will still be here.
  • Switch up your schedule. Even in January, no gym is busy 24/7. Participant numbers are typically high first thing in the morning (the ‘before-work’ crowd), between 9 and 11 am (the ‘after-kiddrop-off’ crowd) and again, between 6 and 8 pm (the very busiest time at the gym where I work). Ask the weight room attendant at your gym when the quietest times of day are. Pick them for your workout for the remainder of the month. 
  • Switch up the order of your exercises. Ninety-percent of gym goers begin their workout on the cardio machines. Once cardio is done, they head over to the free-weights area or to the mirrors for core work and a stretch. Buck the trend and do your workout in reverse. Not only will you avoid the crush, you might just find yourself breaking through a few plateaus.
  • Create a flexible workout plan. Having a workout plan is crucial to a successful gym visit, but it’s also important to be flexible in your choice of exercises when the gym is busy. Being able to quickly substitute one exercise for another when you’re space or equipment-crunched will save you from having to wait out somebody else’s super long set without undermining your workout goals. Lat pull down machine busy? Grab a band, loop it over the chin up bar and practice assisted pull ups. Long line-up for the preacher curl? Barbell curls are your next best option.
January gym rush

For lots of free, realtime workouts videos you can do at home, check out my YouTube channel;

  • Keep it simple. Give me 3 sets of dumbbells, a stability ball and a yoga mat and I’ll give you a workout to challenge every muscle in your body. When there’s lots of competition for equipment, grab what you need and head to a corner of the room. No need to wait for a bench or the cable and pulley machine. No need to wade through the crowds. Think squats, pushups, ball crunches, chest and standing shoulder press, bicep curls and reverse flys. Save the complicated routines (and high-demand equipment) for February.
  • Change your perspective. Instead of viewing ‘newbies’ as a royal pain in the butt, think of them as future exercise buddies. People you can share your knowledge and passion with. People who may actually have something to teach YOU about being fit and healthy. Many a friendship (and romance) has started in the gym…

Are you a January gym ‘lover’ or ‘hater’?

Share your best tip for not letting the busy-ness of the new year’s crowd undermine your workout schedule.


New to strength training? Terms you need to know

Like most sports and creative pursuits, strength training has a language of its own. Learning the lingo is sometimes as difficult as learning the exercises themselves (except for dead lifts; they’re definitely more challenging than simple vocabulary…).


What the what?

Becoming comfortable in the gym requires not only learning how to operate the equipment, but becoming familiar with the terms that you’ll hear your trainer and fellow gym-goers bandy about. Reps, sets, load (knit, purl, SSK 😉 )…

The following is a list of terms that I always spend time explaining to new clients and new-comers to my group fitness classes. How many are you already familiar with?

  • Reps. The number of repetitions of an exercise to be performed before resting or moving on to another exercise. Most strength training programs will provide a ‘rep range’; the minimum and maximum number of repetitions that should be performed. If you can do more than the maximum with the weight you’ve chosen, pick up a heavier weight. If you can’t quite complete the minimum number of reps required, go lighter. Different rep ranges are prescribed for different strength goals. 
  • Sets. The number of times you’ll perform the required number of reps. Sets can be performed ‘straight’ (complete all reps, rest for the amount of time indicated, complete all reps again etc.) or as ‘super sets’ by alternating one set of exercise A with one set of exercise B. Rest time is usually minimized when super sets are used.
  • Load. The amount of weight lifted for a particular exercise. Sometimes varying the load requires performing a different version of the exercise. For example, to increase the load on a pushup one can place a sandbell across the upper back or  elevate the feet on a step or stability ball.
  • Rest. The length of the break taken between sets. Usually, the fewer the repetitions in a set, the heavier the load lifted and the longer the rest between sets. Rest breaks typically range from 15-30 s for a high repetition/low load set to 2-3 mins for a low repetition/high load set.
  • Circuit. A circuit is a series of exercises, performed one after the other, with little or no rest in between. Some circuit programs specify the number of repetitions of each exercise to be performed. Timed circuits require you to perform as many good form repetitions as you can in the specified period of time (for example 45 s or 1 min).
  • Range of motion. The angle through which a joint allows its segments to move. As a consequence of taking your time with each repetition, you’ll be more likely to work your muscles through their entire range of motion, thereby maximizing the number of muscle fibres recruited.
  • Tempo. How rapidly one performs the working (concentric) and non-working (eccentric) phase of an exercise AND how much of a pause one takes between the two. Beginners will typically use a 2-0-2-0 tempo for most exercises. For example, when performing a bicep curl, both the curling and the straightening phase of the exercise will take about 2 counts, with no pause at either the top or the bottom of the move. More advanced exercisers may shorten the working phase and lengthen the non-working phase to increase their time under tension (and facilitate faster strength gains).

Think you’ve got it figured out? Why not test yourself by performing the following workout?


Are there other terms you’ve heard mentioned in the gym that you’d like me to clarify?

Need a lower body program to complement the above workout? Check out my new book, Ultimate Booty Workouts; a 12-week, progress-resistance training program for legs, glutes and core.


What would fitknitchick say?

Since I got back from holidays I’ve been in a funk. Tired all the time. Feeling anxious about the have-to’s. Not making enough time for the want-to’s. Sleeping poorly. Struggling at the gym. Craving sugar and starchy carbs. Yada, yada, yada.

Not my usual positive, energetic and up-beat self.

(Leaving the energizing warmth and sun of California to return to the cold, grey perma-rain of Vancouver didn’t help one bit 😉 )

Sometimes when I feel like this I ask myself what I’d tell a client who shared these feelings with me. What I’d say to help encourage and motivate her. How to help her make the changes required to turn things around.

In short, I ask myself “What would fitknitchick say?”

What would fitknitchick say?

She’d start by nodding her head in an understanding fashion. Acknowledging that life isn’t always easy. And reminding you of all the things she loves about you before suggesting the following;

  • make fitness and healthy eating your top priority. All our bodies really need to thrive is lots of movement and good nutrition. No matter how difficult you think it is to exercise and eat well, staying where you are is harder still. Remind yourself that working out makes you happy and that proper nutrition is also food for the soul.
  • be realistic in your expectations of yourself. Prioritize your  have-to’s (make sure exercise is one of them; schedule it if you must)Take the number of tasks you think you should be able to do in a day and half it. The world won’t end if you don’t finish getting the Scout badges sewn on your daughter’s uniform (or some similar apparently ‘urgent’ task) this week. Congratulate yourself for what you managed to accomplish rather than focusing on the things that didn’t quite get done.
  • make time for family, friends, fun and fibre (or some other creative hobby). Spending more time on the want-to’s always makes the have-to’s easier. I know that ‘lunch with the girls’ cuts into your work time. But think how much more relaxed you’ll be after sharing a few laughs with your friends (sorry I didn’t carve out an hour in my day today guys; next time, I promise). Relaxation aids productivity.

And now, I’m off to take my own advice 😉

Do you have any tips to add to fitknitchick’s list? (she promises to give them a try…)