Hate to exercise? Like it or not, it’s all the same to your health

There are an alarming number of people out there who hate to exercise.

They know they ought to exercise to lose weight, reduce cardiovascular risk factors, prevent osteoporosis, regulate blood sugars, maintain healthy range of motion in their joints, sleep better and generally, live a healthier life. Yet they choose not to because they hate to exercise.

If you follow me on social media (click on the links in the right side bar >>>), you’ll know that even though I teach group fitness classes and work as a personal trainer, I don’t always want to exercise either.

Cardio days are the worst (try as I might to make cardio more fun, it just isn’t 🙁 )

Some days I’d be just as content to skip the gym and head to the mall.

Sit on my couch and knit while getting caught up on missed episodes of True Blood.

Head out for lunch and coffee with ‘the girls’.

Spend the morning hanging out on Facebook.

Go back to bed with a second cup of coffee.

But I don’t. I force myself to do something. Just a little bit and 9 times out of 10 it works.

On the days it doesn’t, I remind myself that whether I enjoyed my workout or not, it’s all the same to my health.

  • My biceps and glutes don’t care that my heart wasn’t into curls and squats.
  • My blood sugar levels aren’t the least bit concerned by the scowl on my face.
  • My ‘happy hormones’ are triggered irrespective of my initial inertia.
  • My sleep is more restful even if I was too tired to give it my all.

The thing is, regardless of whether you love or hate to exercise, it’s all the same to your health.

Does exercise come easy to you?

How do you motivate yourself to exercise on days that you just don’t want to?


Monday Motivation: Rockin’ your favorite jeans

I love Mondays! The start of a new week always inspires me to keep reaching for my goals.

Need a little Monday Motivation?

Let’s talk about jeans. Your favorite jeans.

You know the ones. When you wear them you feel like anything’s possible. You stand taller and prouder. They make you feel like a million bucks. They highlight all the work you’ve been doing in the kitchen and the gym. They make you look fitter, sexier and more confident.

You’d give anything not to, ahem, ‘outgrow’ them.

Think of them next time you’re tempted to skip a workout or reach for a calorie-laden dessert. Remember how great you feel wearing your favorite jeans and use them as motivation to stick with your exercise and nutrition plans.

I asked some of my fellow FitFluential Ambassadors to send me photos of themselves wearing their ‘motivation jeans’. (Thanks so much guys, for your willingness to pose for me and providing brand info, ’cause you know somebody is going to ask what you’re wearing!) Check out their awesome responses below.

Rebekah Borucki & Baby Summer (from BexLife) wearing Banana Republic grey skinny jeans (I love these ones; grey is so flattering!);

Caitlin Croswell (from Cait plus Ate) wearing her favorite American Eagles (rolled up or down, as you please!);

Madeline Glasser (from Food,  Fitness and Family) in her J. Crew Matchstick jeans (and a very sassy scarf; and I know scarves);

Alexandra from Fun and Fit, wearing Nautica and sad because they are tearing below the back pocket, and she has been unable to find a new pair (anybody know where to buy them?);

And Katie Heddleston (Healthy Heddleston), wearing her very first pair of maternity jeans (congratulations Katie!) from Motherhood Maternity (doesn’t she just glow?);

Theodora Blanchfield from Losing Weight in the City wearing Citizens for Humanity (I’ve been lusting after a pair of these…) and loving how they make her look and feel!

And me, Tamara (fitknitchick), wearing my favorite Miss Me’s (I have 4 pair, but these are by far the best fitting of them all);

How about you? Do you have a favorite pair of jeans that make you feel fabulous? Does fitting into them keep you motivated to get your workouts in and eat well?

Please share the details! Brand names and pictures too!

Monday Motivation: What motivates you to exercise and eat well?

Perhaps one of the most common questions that I get asked by group fitness participants and personal training clients is about motivation.

Where do you find the motivation to get up every morning, pack your cooler and head to the gym?

When you didn’t sleep well the night before? When your husband is away for work? When your children are sick? When your legs are sore from yesterday’s workout? When your girlfriends invite you for coffee? When you’d rather go shoe shopping? When your workout clothes are all in the laundry?

When you just don’t feel like it?

Given the prevalence of challenges with motivation, I thought I’d start a weekly feature on the blog to help you all stay motivated with your exercise and healthy eating goals.

Welcome to the first instalment of Monday Motivation!

Each week, I’ll offer you a motivational tip. A photo, a quote, perhaps just a question for you to think about. A success story or a the results of a new study. There may be a recipe or a workout involved. And of course, I’d love to hear what motivates you! If you’d like to contribute a guest post, please contact me via Twitter (@fitknitchick_1) and we can set something up!

Now I know it may sound trite, but my primary motivation comes from my children.

My children motivate me to keep fit and fuel my body with healthy food. Why?

  • So I can keep up with them! I waited until I was in my 30’s to start a family. While that decision afforded me lots of time to travel and pursue my career, it meant that I would never be the youngest mom at the playground. My kids are active and I need to be active with them. Exercising gives me the energy to be a mom who moves!
  • To show them that exercise is a normal part of a healthy lifestyle. I don’t want my children to start exercising as adults. I don’t want them to think of it as a chore. I want them to revel in movement.
  • To ensure that they get the nourishment their growing muscles and brains need. Preparing healthy meals and snacks made primarily from whole foods teaches them that good nutrition doesn’t come out of a box. I want them to go off to university knowing how to feed themselves well and avoid the ‘freshman fifteen’.

Of course, my kids like treats too. But I avoid buying pre-packaged cookies and instead, make my own, from regular cookbooks, but subbing in healthier ingredients where possible.

Try these yummy sunflower seed butter and chocolate chip cookies. We did! (Recipe adapted from an old Canadian Living Desserts cookbook my grandmother gave me before I started to eat clean).

Sunbutter and chocolate chip cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sunflower butter (any unsweetened nut butter can be substituted; I use sunflower seed butter because we have a ‘no nuts’ policy at our school)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (the darker the better!)
  1. Cream butters, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl.
  2. Beat in dry ingredients.
  3. Stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Drop by tablespoon onto lightly greased or parchment lined cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes (or just underdone looking) at 375 degrees.
  6. Allow to cool for 5-10 min on cookie sheet before removing to wire cooling rack.

Although it slows down the process 😉 I invite my kids to bake with me as often as possible. It gives me the opportunity to talk to them about the ingredients we’re using and how those ingredients benefit their growing bodies!

Tell me what motivates you to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Does blogging make you fat? Evidence that deadlines make for poor diets

Yesterday, the Vancouver Sun ran an interesting article in it’s weekly Health feature; Deadlines make for bad diets.

They reported the results of a paper published in the journal Physiology and Behavior (I have a soft spot for this journal; it’s where I published my very first scientific paper about yo-yo dieting and weight gain in mice, way back in 1990).

Researchers asked the question “does performing knowledge-based work (e.g. sitting at a desk analyzing data, writing computer code, drafting papers, reports or blog posts) lead to weight gain?”.


Of course we all know that prolonged sitting and lack of physical activity contribute to weight gain. Move less, burn fewer calories, gain weight. But what’s new about this study is the observation that knowledge-based work is often time sensitive and that the stress caused by meeting a deadline may result in overeating upon completion of the task.

The researchers took two groups of women (group sizes were small, only 15 women per group, so results need to interpreted cautiously). One group was asked to read an excerpt of text and was then given 45 minutes to write a response. The second (control) group was asked to sit quietly for the same period of time. At the end of the test period, both groups were offered access to an all-you-can-eat buffet.


Guess what they found.

The group of women who performed the writing task ate an average of 230 calories more than the group who sat thinking quietly! In addition, food logs kept by the participants indicated that the ‘work’ group did not compensate for these excess calories by eating less through the rest of the day.

The authors also measured circulating cortisol levels (cortisol is known as the ‘stress hormone’ and has been implicated as a food craving trigger). No surprise, the ‘work’ group had higher cortisol levels than the control group. But interestingly enough, they didn’t report feeling any more stressed than their ‘resting’ counterparts and were unaware of their overeating.

In a followup study (using similar protocols), the ‘work’ group not only ate more at lunch when compared with controls, but also experienced greater fluctuations in blood sugar levels while performing the task. The authors argue that our brains may seek extra food to help stabilize blood sugars after doing ‘work’ just like our muscles need to refuel after a weight training session.

What does it all mean?

Sitting at a desk and performing mental work under a deadline may contribute to weight gain by elevating stress levels and making you more prone to mindless eating.

So what’s a desk worker (or blogger) to do? Well, I believe that knowledge is power. Just knowing that you’re more likely to overeat upon the completion of a stressful task allows you to plan.

  • Plan healthy snacks and meals when you’re working on a deadline
  • Eat in the kitchen (mindfully), not at your desk (mindlessly)
  • Cut back on the caffeine. It may fuel creativity, but at the expense of elevated cortisol
  • Keep a water bottle handy; staying hydrated will suppress your appetite and keep your mouth busy
  • Take mini-exercise breaks during your work day; physical activity reduces stress (as do yoga and knitting)

What are you waiting for? Drop and give me 10! (Pushups, crunches, squats or rows; take your pick!)

Do you find yourself eating more when you’re under stress?

Are particular foods more appealing to you during stressful times?

Please hit me up in the comments section below!

No time to exercise? All you need is 15 minutes

Somedays it seems like there’s just no time to fit in a workout. With work, family responsibilities and driving kids to after-school activities, it might seem impossible to find time to exercise.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating; you don’t find time to exercise, you make time.

What’s more, you only need to carve out 15 minutes to reap many of the benefits of exercise; better sleep, elevated mood, fewer sugar cravings, less-frequent injuries and perhaps, if you make time daily, weight loss and increased lean muscle mass.

Aren’t convinced that you can earmark 15 minutes of your day to workout?

  • How much time to you spend on Facebook? Twitter? Reading blogs (okay, read mine before you exercise okay)?
  • How much television do you watch? An hour? Two or more?
  • Can you get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning?
  • Do you need to spend an hour at the coffee shop with your friends, or will 45 minutes suffice?
  • Do you have ‘time to kill’ while your children are at soccer/piano/ballet/hockey practice?

We can all make room in our day for 15 minutes of exercise.

I’ve put together three 15-minute workouts (the first of which I did today, in the 15 minutes available between dropping my son off at school and teaching my morning small group training class; very effective, too, I might add!).

Two require equipment; depending on what type of workout tools you have at home, they could be done without leaving your house (saving you even more time) or at the gym. The third requires no equipment at all. You can do it anywhere (home, park, backyard, parking lot, behind the bleachers), anytime.

All three workouts have the same structure; perform each exercise for 45 s then rest for 15 s before starting the next exercise. Work through the number of cycles indicated (this is key!) without a break. If you can’t complete 45 s of a particular exercise, stop early and add the remainder of the work time to your next rest interval.

I like to use my trusty Gymboss interval timer, set for 15 intervals of a 45/15 s cycle. It does all the counting for me!

Before starting your workout, familiarize yourself with the exercises and perform 10-15 reps of each at a warmup level (toe pushups would be warmed us as wall pushups; dumbbell squats would be warmed us as body weight squats; pull ups would be warmed up as a dead hang etc.). Click on the links below to see descriptions and demonstrations of the most basic form of each exercise; make sure to use the equipment and perform the add-ons that I describe below!

Ready, set, go!

Workout #1 (equipment: 1 set of dumbbells, 1 pull up bar)

  1. Pull ups (assisted, regular, weighted, wide grip, narrow grip; your choice)
  2. Dumbbell front squats (hold dumbbells slightly in front of shoulders; add a shoulder press on the way up if you want)
  3. Pushups (against the wall, from knees, on toes, spiderman; your choice)
  4. Dumbbell straight leg deadlifts (heels elevated or not)
  5. Burpees or squat thrusts
Workout #2 (equipment: 2 sets of dumbbells, stability ball, flat bench)
  1. Walking lunges with dumbbells held at side (or alternating forward lunges if you don’t have the space)
  2. Low ab pull ins/pushup combo over the ball (1 pushup, 1 pull in, repeat; if you can’t perform the combo in good form, choose one of the two movements and do this instead)
  3. Dumbbell deadlift/bent over row combo (descending phase of deadlift, hold position and row dumbbells up to armpits, finish the row then the ascending phase of deadlift; if you can’t perform the combo in good form, choose one of the two movements and do this instead)
  4. Holding a V-sit on bench, extend arms down to the floor, bicep curl to shoulder press (if the V-sit bothers your lower back, place one or both feet on the floor)
  5. Bench hop-overs (straddle bench, place hands on bench at one end of the bench, hop both legs back and forth over the bench; you should look like an antelope!)
Workout #3 (equipment: none, although an exercise mat may make things more comfortable when performing pushups and planks)

  1. Body weight squats, hands behind head (keep chest forward, bum back and knees behind toes)
  2. Pushups (whichever variety you like; add intensity by placing feet on a book or step)
  3. Alternating backward lunges or lunge jumps (aim for 90 degrees at both knees at the bottom of your lunge)
  4. Plank (from knees or toes, forearms on the ground with elbows under shoulders; tummy and bum should be held tight the whole time)
  5. Imaginary skipping (for non-skippers, this is way more effective than trying to manage a rope!)
Disclaimer: These workouts may or may not be for you, depending on your age, weight and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before you begin a new exercise program.

Let me know which one you like/hate the most?

Do you make time in your day for exercise?

Beware the saboteur…

Let’s go for lunch; you can skip the gym just this once…

It’s just dessert. Splurge, you’ve been working so hard, you deserve it.

Exercise always comes first with you. What about our friendship?

Honey, you look great to me. I like you with a few extra pounds around the hips.

You’re so boring now that you don’t drink. You used to be fun and let loose. What happened to you?

Sound familiar? Those are the words of the saboteur (you know, the friend/relative/spouse/child/co-worker/exercise partner), who’d rather you didn’t stick to your exercise and nutrition goals today (or tomorrow, for that matter), who constantly tries to sabotage your health and fitness plans.

Saboteurs come in all shapes and sizes; learn to recognize them. They often sound like they have your best interests at heart. They comfort you because they tell you what you’d like to hear. They tempt you into staying exactly where you are rather than moving forward. They smile and encourage while under-mining your health and fitness goals.

Why do some people feel the need to sabotage others’ good intentions? What’s it to them if you decide to skip dessert or forego the second glass of wine? Why does your going to the gym affect them at all?

Realize that more often than not, your saboteur’s desire to have you fall off the wagon has much more to do with them than you. Your good habits make them look and feel bad about their own poor ones. If they succeed in getting you to skip a workout, their decision to do the same is validated. They instantly feel better about themselves.

While I’m all about helping people find happiness and self-worth, I don’t do it at the expense of my own. Neither should you. Tips for dealing with saboteurs?

  • know who’s most likely to try sabotaging your health and fitness goals
  • anticipate their comments
  • prepare responses that emphasize your commitment to your goals and explain why those goals are important to you
  • encourage them to join you in your quest for health and wellness
  • use ‘when you say ____, I feel _____’; often people don’t realize the effects of their words on others
  • distance yourself; this is a last resort, but all too often we keep people in our lives even when their attitudes and actions are bad for us.

Stay strong, focused and true to your goals and aspirations. Don’t let the saboteurs sabotage you!

Top 10 reasons to exercise

10. Improve your sex life.

9. Increase your endurance at the mall.

8. Reduce love handles.

7. Avoid housework.

6. Avoid more housework (it’s never-ending).

5. Great “views” at the gym 😉

4. Dessert.

3. Freedom to listen to non-Top-40 music without ridicule from children.

2. Freedom to listen to Top 40 without ridicule from spouse.

1. Preservation of life

Not yours, your children’s. Specifically, those children who insist on behaving like the devil’s spawn when vacationing with your parents.

Their children never behaved like that!