Archives for June 2014

My summer fitness reading list

When I was a child, one of the things I most loved about summer holidays was having time to catch up on my reading. Every June, as the school year came to a close, I made a list of books that I planned on reading over the summer.

summer fitness reading list

My 11-year old daughter’s summer reading pile; looks a lot like mine at that age…

My public library limited the number of books that children could check out to seven at a time. Most weeks, I biked to the library multiple times to take back the books I’d finished and pick out new titles from my summer reading list.

While my preferred genres have changed since then, I’m still an avid reader. And I still love creating a summer reading list. Books to take with me on vacation or just to enjoy reading in the garden during the months I cut back on work (and formal workouts).

Many of the books I read over the summer are directly related to my job as a fitness professional.

Books about nutrition, exercise, motivation and personal growth. Books that I can learn from. Books that help me improve my abilities as a trainer and coach. Books that give me ideas for solving the problems that my clients commonly struggle with.

Here’s what I came up with.


My summer fitness reading list

  1. Fitness After 40 by Vonda Wright. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m particularly passionate about helping women in their 40’s and 50’s become the strongest, fittest and healthiest possible versions of themselves. Wright is an orthopaedic surgeon whose interest in injury prevention and experience working with elite ‘masters’ level athletes looks like an interesting and informative read.
  2. Lose It Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind by James Fell. Fell is one of my favourite, no-holds-barred fitness bloggers. He’s smart, witty, irreverent and a fantastic writer to boot. He’s also Canadian 😉
  3. Unsinkable by Silken Laumann. Who doesn’t love a good comeback story? In 1992, just ten weeks before she was scheduled to row in the Olympic Games, Silken Laumann suffered a terrible accident that nearly severed her leg. Despite the odds, she not only recovered in time to compete in the Games, she rowed to a bronze place finish for Canada.
  4. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michale Pollan. Although this book’s been around since 2007, I’ve somehow not yet managed to read it. Given all of our collective concerns about where, exactly, our food is coming from, I thought it might be a good time to take a look. I’ve been warned that I may not want to eat meat for awhile after finishing it.
  5. Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss. I love a good conspiracy theory. Especially when there’s evolutionary science to support the ideas.

Shall I assign myself an end-of-summer book report? 😉

Of course, if you haven’t read it yet (really?), you may want to pick up a copy of my book, Ultimate Booty Workouts. In addition to a 12-week strength training program you can do at home, it’s packed full of tips about getting started with exercise, injury prevention, workout nutrition and stretching.

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Do you have a summer reading list?

Any fitness, health or nutrition books on your list that need to be on mine?

Disclosure: All of the titles above were either purchased by me, or borrowed from my local library. I am, however, an Amazon Affiliate. That means that if you click on one of the links and end up purchasing the book as a result, Amazon pays me a very, very small commission. It doesn’t affect your purchase price at all…




Peaceful coexistence at the gym: when older and younger work out together

It’s that time of the year again.

School is out, the summer gym rush is on and the demographic at the gym where I work and train changes dramatically. As in the median age of the daytime gym-goer drops by at least fifteen years.

peaceful gym coexistence

While I’m thrilled to see young people choosing exercise over hanging out at the 7-11, it does make for some interesting encounters in the weight room…

Many of my 40+ female clients are less than excited to be suddenly sharing the free weights section with a bunch of teenage boys.

Fair enough. They tend to hang around in bunches, one exercising, the others watching while answering their phones or swigging on brightly coloured workout drinks.

They also tend to be a little less mindful of personal space and the effect their cologne might be having on the people around.

As I have no clients in this age group, I can’t speak to the challenges we ‘older women’ present to them, although I’m sure there are many 😉

With the goal of encouraging peaceful coexistence at the gym during the months ahead, I’d like to offer suggestions to both groups of gym-goers; the younger, summer-time crowd and the older, rest-of-the-year bunch.

  1. Pay attention to your surroundings. Just like in the boat yard, larger, moving ‘ships’ go first. If somebody nearby is moving with a heavy weight, stand back and let them pass or finish their set before you continue on. When setting up your bench, make sure it’s far enough away from your neighbour’s so as not to impede their range of motion (or scare them to death when your dumbbell suddenly moves over their body).
  2. Remember why you’re at the gym. Sure, exercising with friends can be more fun than exercising solo. But if you’re standing around chatting with your buddies/girlfriends/cronies rather than lifting or actively resting, you’re taking up space that another gym-goer could be using. Workout first then take the coffee talk to the coffee shop.
  3. Shift your workout time. In my gym, the 14 to 19-year olds don’t tend to make an appearance until 10:30 or  11:00 am. And when the sun’s out, they tend to head for the beach by about 2 (pump up first, beach second…). If you’re looking for a quieter time to exercise, avoid the peak daytime hours.
  4. Keep your volume down and your language respectable. Nobody wants to hear your music, no matter how awesome the playlist. Lower the volume to protect everybody’s ears. Remember that you’re in a public place and keep the F-bombs to yourself. You never know who’s on the bench beside you; it just may be the woman that’ll be interviewing you tomorrow for the summer job you’ve got your heart set on…
  5. Treat others with respect. Regardless of age, everyone deserves to be treated respectfully. That means asking before you commandeer equipment. ‘Working in’ when two or more people need to use the same machine. Wiping off your bench and cardio machines when you’re done. Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’. Giving someone an ‘atta boy John’ or ‘good job’ when you’re impressed with their effort or performance.

Above all, remember that ultimately, we all go to the gym for the same reasons;  to improve our fitness, health and over-all sense of well-being.

Does the demographic in your gym change over the summer?

If so, how does it affect your workouts?


5 tips for reducing summertime fitness stress

While I’m thrilled that the good weather is here and summer holidays are right around the corner (closer than expected if our teachers do indeed go to a full scale walkout…), I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to some anxiety over the upcoming change in my routine.

summertime fitness

See that child to the left of me? He’s now taller than I am…

For me (and many of my clients and class participants), next to Christmas holidays, summer is the most challenging time of the year to stay focused on exercise and clean eating.

Despite the longer days (more time to exercise out of doors), the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables (farmer’s markets are a great place to sample local produce) and the shedding of cold weather clothing (nothing like wearing shorts and a tank top to highlight those muscles you’ve built over the winter and help you stay focused on keeping them), for those of us with school age children, summertime fitness can become a scheduling nightmare.

With kids’ camps, family holidays, visiting relatives, swimming lessons, barbecues, beach parties, sleepovers, play dates and all the extra meal prep and house cleaning (admittedly, my children are getting better at helping with this), many parents find it difficult to maintain their regular workout schedule. Some quit altogether, only to return to the gym in September, feeling like they’re starting all over again.

5 tips for reducing summertime fitness stress

1. Re-think your goals. If you don’t have an event you’re training for, reduce your expectations; it’s the easiest way to set yourself up for success. Admitting that summertime may not be the best time to put on more muscle, lean out or PR on your dead lift gives you the freedom to follow a ‘maintenance’ schedule. For me, summer is all about maintaining my fitness status quo.

After years of paying attention to how my body responds to exercise, I know that I’m capable of maintaining my muscle mass and body weight with a mere three, full-body strength training sessions per week. Any less and I regress. Anything more is just icing on the (low-fat, sugar-free) cake!

If you’re looking for free, short but intense, minimal equipment workouts, check out my YouTube channel.

2. Make yourself a priority. Remember that summertime parenting is an endurance event. Taking care of yourself makes it easier to take care of others. Rather than thinking of exercise as a chore, remind yourself of how good it makes you feel and in turn, how much easier it is to remain patient, kind and loving to your children (even when they’ve uttered the phrase “I’m bored” for the hundredth time today…).

3. Exercise outside the ‘box’ (or the studio or the gym). Not getting to the gym as frequently as usual? Not to worry. Expand your definition of exercise to include backyard and playground activities with your children.

summertime fitness

Move the car into the driveway and the carport becomes an instant gym!

Monkey bars are just as good an exercise for your back as lat pulldowns. Spend thirty minutes on the swing and tell me you don’t feel the muscles of your core? Hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming, scootering and hula-hooping are all great substitutes for more traditional, whole-body metabolic strength workouts.

summertime fitness

Kayaking is a great core workout!

4. Focus on nutrition. If you’re cutting back on exercise, use this time to focus on nutrition. Not only is it easier to eat healthy in the summer (berries, tomatoes, greens, apricots, cherries, cucumbers; all are readily available and both fresher and cheaper than any other time of the year), many people find that their appetite for sweet and starchy carbs is less intense when the weather heats up. Think of this extra time with your children as an opportunity to plan and prepare healthy meals WITH them (rather than FOR them).

5. Take a daily ‘constitutional’. Recent studies show that significant health benefits can be gained by simply adding a walk to your daily routine. An after-dinner stroll around the neighbourhood is a great way to get kids away from the computer. We incorporate berry-picking, geo-caching, wildlife photography and chatting with the neighbours into our evening ‘constitutionals’. With the children running ahead, some days this is the only time my husband and I can hold a conversation without interruption.

summertime fitness

Photography stops making hiking more enjoyable

Do you find it harder to fit in fitness over the summer?

Share your tricks and tips for maintaining summertime fitness below.




Gifts fitness has given me | a birthday gratitude post

Tomorrow is my birthday. You can bet I’ll be having cake!

Happy Birthday Fitnitchick!

Forty-seven years of age. Where did the time go?

I haven’t asked any fitness friends to gift me a birthday workout. I felt those burpees for a week, Dai!

I don’t want any presents. Trying to declutter and reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ in my house.

And will be taking my entire family to a cultural event with the money they’d have spent buying gifts for me. Experiences make me happier than things.

I’m content, grateful and happy to have had a wonderful 47th year and only hope that the year leading to 48 will be just as rich and exciting.

Can I share my secret with you? It’s all because of fitness.

Gifts fitness has given me

  •  A stronger and healthier body. I’m lifting more (and better) than ever before in my life. It makes me feel powerful and bold and comfortable in my own skin. My doctor tells me that I’m the perfect patient for his over-busy practice 😉
  • The ability to recover more quickly from injuries. That’s not to say that I haven’t had my share of injuries; last summer’s bout with Achilles tendonitis was not fun. But having a strong fitness foundation has certainly helped me to recover more quickly and without noticeable loss of strength or endurance.

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  • Positive energy and enhanced self-confidence. If you’ve ever attended one of my fitness classes you’d be surprised to find out that for most of my life I was quite uncomfortable being at the front of the classroom. My graduate advisor used to joke about the red splotches that would appear and disappear randomly on my face whenever I stood up to give a presentation. Teaching group fitness has given me the confidence to regularly don a cordless mic, cheer and encourage large groups and basically say whatever comes into my head while doing so.

exercises for legs and glutes

  • Opportunities to share my message of health and wellness with a larger audience. When I first started writing this blog (November, 2010) I never imagined the doors that it would open for me. Regular requests to write for other websites, invitations to speak at conferences and workshops, new clients (both in person and on-line) and most recently, the opportunity to publish my first fitness book.

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  • A reason to return to reading scientific papers. I spent the first 12 years of my adult life at university. While I loved being a research scientist, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t how I wanted to live the rest of my life. Being a fitness professional allows me to indulge my life-long love of learning. I actually get paid to read the most recent scientific literature in the health and fitness fields and share my interpretations with clients and readers. All without ever having to write a research grant proposal or worry about tenure 😉
  • A supportive network of friends and colleagues who encourage, support and inspire me daily. All too often we read about the dangers of the internet. The feelings of isolation and depression it causes in some. The belief that people hide their true selves behind their keyboards. The worry that some anonymous stranger is out to harm you or your children. Thankfully, my experiences with social media have been quite the opposite. I’m grateful for the encouragement, support and inspiration my online friends give me each and every day I log on.

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  • Cherished friendships with women I would never have crossed paths with outside of fitness. Friends who make me think and laugh and push me to be the best version of myself possible. I only hope that I return the favour 🙂
  • Body acceptance. I recently shed my final body image insecurity and have been proudly sporting shorts in the aerobics studio and weight room. Go me!
  • The energy and endurance required to keep up with a busy, active family of five. Hiking and kayaking and swimming and tennis. Geocaching and bocce and lawn darts and croquet. All require sustained energy (both physical and mental…); stamina I wouldn’t have if I didn’t exercise regularly!



What’s the best gift fitness has given to you?

If you could have any kind of cake in the world for your birthday, what would it be?


Five steps to a successful ‘pantry raid’ | tips for healthy eating

Have you recently made a commitment to cleaning up your diet?

Focusing on better nutrition to improve your health, gain energy and lose a few pounds? Eating to fuel your body rather than combat stress, fatigue and frustration? Happy to have set some goals but have no idea where to start?

How about a ‘pantry raid’? (It’s almost summer camp season after all 😉 )

Getting rid of the foods that don’t support your goals and replacing them with healthier, nutrient-dense options is the easiest way to set yourself up for success.

Five steps to a successful ‘pantry raid’

1. Remove all items from the pantry. Place everything on the kitchen counter or table. Take a look at ‘best before dates’ and immediately toss anything whose expiry date is passed (make sure you’re composting the contents of cans and jars and recycling the packaging wherever possible).

I like to take this opportunity to clean out and wash the shelves; who knows when the next opportunity to do so will arise!

2. Separate the remaining items into canned and jarred goods, unprocessed dried items (fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, rice, pasta, oats, flour), junk food (chips, cookies, candy, chocolate bars, flavoured syrups, ice cream cones etc.), processed and packaged dried items (macaroni and cheese dinners, noodles with seasonings, most breakfast cereals, pancake, cake, cookie and muffin mixes and all forms of sugar).

Throw the junk food out. All of it. Take the trash bag to the curb immediately if you’re likely to recant.

3. Read all labels and ruthlessly discard items with high sugar, salt and trans fats. This will mean most processed foods including crackers, granola bars, cereals and cookies. It may also mean jars of spaghetti sauce, apple sauce, fruit (if packed in in syrup rather than water), dried fruit with sugar added and flavoured or salted nuts. If you think you need to keep a small amount around (for baking special desserts or entertaining company), make sure to place it out of your line of sight. Get rid of all trigger foods (those foods that you can’t even have a little bit of without eating the whole bag, box or bar). If you’re brand new at reading nutrition labels and ingredients list, have a look at this post.

Numbers to watch out for? Single servings with more than 8 g of sugar or 250 mg of sodium. Ingredient lists with sugar (or a sugar substitute; fructose, glucose, maltose, dextrose, most ‘oses’) in the top 5. Sugar substitutes are a point of contention. I don’t buy them or consume them myself, as I believe that they have the same action on your brain as the real thing. Decide for yourself.

4.  Return what’s left to your cupboards. Healthiest and most frequently used items go at eye and chest level. Less healthy and (hopefully) less frequently used options go on the very top and bottom shelves (although if you have young children who are prone to foraging and you’re attempting to clean up their diets as well, put it all as high up as possible).

Place items with the shortest shelf life towards the front of the pantry, longest shelf life at the back. Group items according to their function or packaging. I have a shelf for cans and boxes. Another for baking ingredients. And a third for healthy snack items. (The coffee and tea have an entire shelf to themselves…)

5. Create a shopping list of clean eating pantry staples; items that you can easily incorporate in lunches and dinners. Include beans and lentils (dry or BPA-free cans), tomatoes/tomato sauce/tomato paste (no sugar added), raw nuts, sugar-free dried fruit, oats (steel cut), rice and quinoa (brown, whole grain or ‘black’), almond/coconut/whole wheat flour, an assortment of spices, healthy oils (extra virgin olive, grape seed, avocado, coconut), low-sodium broths (chicken, vegetable, beef for making soups and stews), canned or dried sources of on-the-go protein (tuna, salmon, jerky) and protein powder (whey, vegan or hemp).

Now that your pantry is clean and well-stocked with healthy ingredients, head on over to Pinterest and check out my Innovative Salads, Quintessentially Quinoa and Recipes for Menopause Symptoms for some clean eating cooking inspiration! (Go ahead and give me a Pinterest ‘follow’ while you’re there; I’m working on sharing more of my favourite pins each and every day).