Goal Setting – Keeping it Simple

2016 is almost over, but it’s never too late to work on goal setting!  Did you set any goals for the year?  Every year it’s something I think about and every few years or so I change the way I do it in an attempt to find an effective way to keep me on track!
In the past I’ve written down different categories (ie://financial, relationship, education, career, fitness, etc) and listed 3-4 goals for each.  One year I did a year of “bucket list” items with my boot camp ladies, we each listed one thing we wanted to complete for each month of the year.  There are years I’ve simply made mental notes of things I’ve wanted to accomplish and of course, years where I haven’t set out any specific intentions at all!
How has it worked for me?  It’s been okay, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I don’t recall a year where I’ve accomplished everything I’ve set out to do.  In my mind, that’s okay, but I also think it could be a sign that maybe I’m setting out to do either
a) too much
b) things that aren’t that important to me or
c) things I think I ought to do rather than what I really would like to do
This year I’ve been listening to an audiobook called “The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta.  It’s all about scaling back all of the things you commit yourself to and focusing on the things that are truly important.  In a world where multi-tasking and doing more is equal to more, a lot of what he’s talking about is certainly going against the grain.  I’m not sure I have what it takes to minimize to the extremes he takes in his book, there were definitely a lot of take-aways that I plan to apply this year!
Of course he touches on goal-setting early in the book.  I like what he’s come up with and this has been my strategy for 2016.  If you’re up to it, I would challenge you to do the same!
This is what it looks like:
1) Set a 1 year goal
– just one thing you really want to accomplish one year from now
2) Set a 3 month goal
– something you really want to accomplish 3 months from today
– your 3 month goal can be a “sub-goal” of your one year goal, which is actually a great strategy as it is re-visited every 3 months
His theory behind having only have 2 goals at any given time, is that it makes it very easy to choose what is an important focus and what isn’t.  It makes it easier to eliminate distractions or things that steer you away from your goal.
So for example, say your 1 year goal is to finally take that holiday you’ve always wanted to do with a friend/family/spouse to a sunny destination one year from today.  The trip is going to cost $3000 total.  Your three month goal may be to set-up a budget to plan where the money will come from, find out from your bank if there’s a type of account where you can maximize your savings for the year.  Once you’ve done all of your research and set-up a plan, your next 3 month goal may be to implement your plan and start putting away the money.  Your next 3 month goal might be to re-asses whether or not the plan is working with your budget, if there are issues, this is the time period where you would focus on addressing those things….and so on…each 3 months creating a new goal.
Perhaps by the 6 month mark, everything is on track with your saving plan and there is no need to make changes.  Your goal for the next 3 months may be to come up with a plan to lose 10lbs by the time of your trip.  Planning for this goal may include researching personal trainers or classes in your area, coming up with a strategy of how much you want to lose each week, and determining what your nutrition will look like for the next 3 months (think small changes!) Once you have come up with your plan you can start to implement.  It might look something like this:
“I will attend 3 fitness classes each week, eat a healthy breakfast every morning, and minimize eating sweets or drinking alcohol to 1-2 nights per week”
By the 4th quarter you will be evaluating your progress with your 3rd goal and making a new one from there.
Remember, if everything is going well with your “sub-goal” you can always create a new 3 month goal that is totally unrelated to your 1 year goal.  The purpose of this type of goal setting is to settle on one main objective for 3 months, rather than multiple things.
Here’s to a successful year and enjoying everything it has to offer!

Are You on the Hunt for this Elusive Top 5?

A few weeks ago I received this email from one of my readers:
“Hi Sarah
Can you give me the top 5 waist whittler please? I need some whittling :)”
She gets points for the creative title and of course, giving me permission to share with you! I responded, but likely not the response she may have been looking for.  This is what I shared with her:
SPOILER ALERT: All the crunches and planks in the world will not “whittle” your waist.  I’m not going to give you a list of 5 core exercises to “whittle your waist” because that’s not how it happens.  Not to say there is no benefit to doing core exercises – these are a must in any great training program, just don’t do them for the purpose of trimming your waist, you WILL be disappointed in the result! (or lack thereof)
Waist whittling is a lifestyle adjustment, but is totally do-able over a period of time….IF….you are dedicated.  Ugh…lifestyle change sounds so not-sexy, doesn’t it???  It also sounds like a lot of work to most people, especially those looking for these results yesterday.  But keep in mind, a quick fix is just that, a quick fix….nothing that will help you out long term.
Lack of consistency is the #1 mistake I see people making when trying to reach their fitness goals.  When I’m talking consistency, I’m not talking 4 weeks or even 6 weeks, a lot of people have no problem staying dedicated for that long.  I’m talking 3-6 months of real, consistent effort in building specific changes into your lifestyle.  Guess what?  Once it becomes your lifestyle, it becomes a lot less work, it becomes: just the way you do things.
You don’t have to do a lot to make a big change, you just have to do a few good things consistently.  So in the example of whittling your waist, start small and just be consistent!  Here are my top 5 lifestyle tips to “whittle your waist”  DISCLAIMER: will not whittle your waist in 4-6 weeks 🙂
1) Drink lots of water
2) Reduce your intake of processed foods and foods high in saturated fat, replace these with lots of veggies
3) Exercise daily – nothing complicated, just move and get sweaty!
4) Build muscle – this will naturally increase your metabolism and contrary to popular belief, will NOT make you bulky
5) Metabolic Training (HIIT/High intensity interval training) – this type of training burns carbohydrate as fuel while you are exercising, but if you exercise at a high enough intensity, will create an oxygen deficit that causes your body to burn more fat for several hours after you finish exercising.
There it is ladies…the not-so-sexy-but-oh-so-effective Top 5 Waist Whittler!

10 Post-Workout Snack Ideas

Have you heard the hype about consuming protein after your workouts? Have you jumped on the band wagon, or perhaps thought “do I even need to be on this band wagon?”

Consuming a post-workout snack consisting of protein and carbohydrate could be the little extra that your body is missing.  These are a few reasons why consuming a post-workout snack with protein will level up your workout and recovery game:

  • Tissue Growth and Repair – eating protein within the first 30-45min following your workout will jump-start your recovery process, your body will begin healing all those tissues damaged during your workout and begin muscle growth while the blood is still flowing freely to those working tissues. Post-workout your body breaks down protein a lot faster than the normal rate so in order to maintain a steady supply of protein to your body, you need to consume it. The pay off?  Reduced muscle soreness the next day!
  • Increased Satiety – “But I’m never hungry after I workout”  of course not, your body is more worried about recovering than refueling, but you don’t need to eat a lot to get the process started.  You’re not eating to satisfy hunger at this point, you’re eating for fuel and repair.  As a bonus though, you will be less likely to be famished and searching for anything in sight to eat an hour after your workout.
  • Fat Burning – Who doesn’t want to do more of that?  When glucose (sugar) in the blood stream is low as it typically is after a workout, eating protein will stimulate the release of glucagon, a hormone that causes the liver to begin breaking down stored glucose for fuel.  It also helps to free up fatty acids being stored in the body to be used as fuel.

How much do I need post-workout?  All you need is 30g of carbohydrate and anywhere from 5-15g of protein.  For someone who weighs around 150lbs, 10g of protein is great.

Here are 10 post-workout snack ideas:

1) 1 cup steamed edamame (in the shells) and an apple

2) 1 boiled egg chopped up on a piece of whole grain toast (add salt and pepper to taste)

3) Ants on a log – 1 stalk of celery spread with nut butter and craisins or another dried fruit sprinkled on top

4) Mini Bean Burrito (could easily prep and freeze a few of these!), use 6″  wrap, add a half cup of black beans (drained and rinsed), 1T salsa, sprinkle of cheese, roll up and grill or pan fry

5) Babybel cheese and piece of fruit

6) 250ml Chocolate Milk

7) Protein smoothie: 1/2 cup nut milk, 1/2 scoop protein powder, 1/2 cup berries, 1/2 banana

8) Sliced apple dipped or spread with nut butter

9) 1/2 a protein bar

10) 1/2 cup of greek yogurt, 1/2T of nut butter, dash of cinnamon and 2T slivered almonds

Happy Snacking!!!



4 Lessons I’ve Learned as a New Mom

It’s been quite sometime since I last blogged and a lot has happened!  I’m 4 months into #momming for the first time.  I had a bit of writer’s block trying to come up with something to write about for my blog because so little of my life has been health and fitness related, but this is what I came up with: a few lessons and strategies I’ve learned along the way that can definitely apply to the health and fitness realm as well!

Lesson/Strategy #1
Try to have 1-3 big priorities each month and build on those

I’m the worst when it comes to saying no and my constant struggle has always been having too many irons in the fire.  I didn’t realize how bad it really was until I committed to taking time off from everything I was working on once Sarita came along.  My priorities the past few months have been Sarita, eating 3 meals a day/cooking for the hubs, and completing one task per day.  Yes I’m sleep deprived (though at this point it’s much better) and taking care of a baby has it’s own set of challenges, but I can’t believe how much more relaxed I feel.  I know that prioritization looks different for everyone, so your version might be a lot different from mine.

This is how it came about… with a little one at home, very little of your time is your own.  Yes she naps, but those naps are unpredictable.  Some days are 45 min, some days are 2 hours.  It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be to get things done.  So for now, I set out to complete only ONE task per day, it might be sending an email, it could be cleaning a bathroom, but I consider my day to be successful if I’ve spent as much time as possible with Sarita, I’ve nourished my own body and fed my husband (I know it sounds a bit silly, but there are days when we resort to take-out or he eats PB and J!!) and I completed my one task.  Today happens to be a 2 hour nap day so I was able to finish a few loads of laundry AND complete this email, but those extra loads of laundry are a bonus.

Where are the workouts you might be thinking!?!  That’s right, they’re not there.  Some days they show up as a task or they end up being a bonus activity, but right now it’s not one of my big 3.  Also, when I say workout, it’s far from what my workouts used to be. I’m taking my progressions slow and steady and listening to my body.  Of course this could and hopefully will change next month, but for now I’m not going to sweat it.  Once I nail down these 3, it will be onto the next 3.

In a sense I’ve lowered my expectations for myself, but I go to bed feeling accomplished and ready to start fresh the next day.  The Mom-Guilt is real people and it’s easy to “should” all over yourself about the things that didn’t get done, but I challenge you to start a little smaller and see what happens!

How does this fit with fitness?  Maybe you’re just getting started on your health and fitness journey, recovering from an injury, or you’ve hit a plateau.  Giving yourself 1-3 things to focus on could be just what you need to level up your game.  So yours might look something like this: incorporate veggies into one of my snacks, go for a bike ride 2x/week, aim to lift 2-3lbs heavier on all upper body exercises, add one additional strength workout to my week, eat 20g of protein at breakfast.

Lesson/Strategy #2
Move Everyday

Some way, somehow I try to get movement in throughout my day.  I wouldn’t consider this exercise, it’s more just making sure I stay active.  I’m amazed at how much time I spend sitting just for the simple fact that I’m feeding Sarita on a regular basis and when she plays, it’s always on the floor.  So I make a point of moving as often as possible.

I do deep squats to set her down and pick her up off the floor or lunge down onto one knee.  I practice my squatting technique getting in and out of the rocking chair (no hands!!!).  It’s not much, but it does help to keep my legs somewhat active!

Once I was cleared to do more than 2 sets per day of stairs, I committed myself to feeding and changing Sarita’s diapers upstairs in the nursery.  Stairs are a great way to build strength in your legs and I’ve been able to do a set every 2 hours.

I take Sarita on little tours of the house 2-3x/day.  I carry her and we walk through all the rooms, look in mirrors, look out windows.  I do my best to switch her from side to side so I’m not always carrying her on one side and I always work to keep my core engaged.  Moms, Grandmas and Aunties …. When carrying your babies it’s so easy to sit back on your hunches so your back arches, your pelvis presses forward and your tummy sticks out but trust me, you are doing so many favors for your pelvic floor and core if you can just lengthen through your spine and pull that belly button inward, just enough to feel the slightest tightening of your core muscles.  Voila, you’ve improved your core function!  As your little one gets bigger and bigger, this clearly gets to be more of a challenge!  These are also great tips to keep in mind when carrying anything, including weights in your workout. I can’t emphasize enough how this will help to reduce pelvic floor issues, low back and hip pain.

Leisure walks.  Though the first few of these pushing the stroller with my deconditioned body hardly felt leisurely!  I would love to say I get out for a walk every day, but that’s not reality. Reality is probably every other day with the stroller but it’s a start!

Again, these are little things and not necessarily what I would call a workout, but they are simple ways I try to move my body every day because in these early months I don’t feel like I have time to get full workouts in yet.  For me, right now it works and my body feels good doing it.  Maybe you’re going through a busy time in your life and are having a hard time fitting your workouts in…well…something is better than nothing and maybe you can incorporate some of these things into your day!

Lesson/Strategy #3
Clean up after yourself

I know, this sounds largely like a parenting strategy but bear with me…it has its impact on fitness as well!

Babies cause clutter, they just do.  Or the things they need cause clutter, however you want to look at it.  But not only that, they cause you to create clutter.  In the first few weeks I suddenly started to notice little piles and groves of “things” on the counters, on the floor, on the table.  Some things were out simply because I was using them on a regular basis, but a lot of the things I was leaving out as a reminder to get to it later.  I learned in a hurry that this strategy was NOT working for me.  Anytime I had a spare minute to put my feet up, those piles and groves would be staring right back at me.

I would be lying if I said I’ve perfected this strategy, but I’m working on it.  It’s simple.  I put things away or clean things, right after I use them.  My new reality is that I might not have time to get to that little mess for hours or sometimes days so it has to be done.  If it needs to be done later (like folding laundry) I find a place to put it, out of sight and out of mind.  It will get done later, when Sarita sleeps, after I sleep, whenever, BUT the clutter is reduced.

What I’ve learned in practicing this strategy is that certain things take a lot less time than what you think.  Unloading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, tidying the living room, responding to an email, prepping dinner.  Each of these little chores can be done in 5-10 minutes while baby girl is lying on the floor entertaining herself.

This whole thing might sound a little silly to you, but this was/is a real struggle for me!  I was leaving all these 5-10min tasks saying I’ll just do it when she goes to bed, or I’ll do this when she naps.  All of a sudden I would have an hour or more of little tasks to complete at the end of the day or during her nap (or if she didn’t nap) when really, all I wanted to do was go to sleep!

Doing these little tasks one at a time for 10min or less rather than leaving them until later has opened up larger windows of time for me.  MY time.  I can fold that bin of laundry, I can take a nap or do a mini-workout…or do nothing.  This is where the fitness part comes into play.  How hard is it to do a workout in your living room where you might have plain view of a stack of dirty dishes on your counter?  As women, it’s freaking hard to block that out!  Maybe you go to a class at the end of the day, it’s a lot harder to commit to that class when you look around at everything you still need to do that evening.

Lesson/Strategy #4

Create Rituals

Routine and rituals have been game changers for me and they can be for you too!  Right now they don’t revolve much around my fitness, but I will get there, 3 emails ago I talked about my big 3 and that’s not part of it…yet.

As many of you know, babies don’t really follow a very predictable routine in their first few months of life.  I’m told this is coming in the next few months lol.  So for now, I’ve tried to ritualize the best I can with what works for Sarita and for our little family.

I was having a hard time getting breakfast in me before 11am (#momming) which was the trigger for getting a morning ritual. Ever experience hangry? not cool! Sarita’s last feed is usually around 4am or 5am…for this mama, this is still “night time” and I’ve made it a priority to teach this to her.  So back to bed we go right after the feed and wake up for the day around 7am or 8am…much more do-able!  Of course when she wakes up I need to feed/change/wash her first, but I’ve learned that once she’s fed I have a window of contentment!  After getting her dressed, it’s my turn!  I have a solid 15min (a lot of time in Mom-minutes) to wash up, freshen up, get dressed and be ready for the day.  By the time we head downstairs I can get at my breakfast while playing with her on the floor (we also don’t eat at our table often anymore!).  It’s not perfect, but all of this happens before 9:30am…a win-win!!!

In the evenings, I clean the kitchen and make Kofi’s lunch, once that’s done I consider myself free and clear for the evening.  As per the last email, if I’ve been on the ball with keeping things tidied up it literally is a free and clear evening.

My hope is that once the napping becomes a bit more ritualized I can start to schedule workouts, but for now, that’s all I’ve got! My main objectives were to play with Sarita, eat and complete one task, these rituals help me to achieve that.

Fat’s where it’s at

Fat’s where it’s at – at least that’s what my Dad says when he hears the word come up, especially when it comes to complaints about weight loss or being too heavy.  My Dad is a man of few words, but when he does speak it’s usually something unexpectedly funny.  However on the serious side of things, he’s actually right!  Fats are a really important part of a healthy diet, weight loss, satiation, metabolism and of course, making the food we eat taste delicious!

Though for this blog I’m focusing on fats, it’s worth noting that food, especially GOOD food is essential to our health and affects our health in four main ways:

  • It provides energy
  • It fuels our metabolism
  • It becomes a part of our body structures and,
  • It influences hormones and neurotransmitters necessary for our body’s to perform their daily functions

Many people are unaware that the types of fats you consume not only affect your body’s composition (how much fat you have compared to muscle and water) but they even affect your individual cells and how they function.  Aside from the facts that some fats will indeed make you fat when overconsumed over time, some fats will also cause your cells to function poorly.

The border of your cells (plasma membrane) is made up of a fatty layer of phospholipids – they have fatty tails and phosphate heads (imagine little tadpoles).  One part of the tadpole loves water, the other does not and this is what helps to regulate what substances can move in and out of the cell.  In order for our bodies to function, there are hormones and neurotransmitters coming in and out of our cells all the time. The types of things moving in and out and the rate they move drastically affect our metabolism and your body’s ability to function in general. Naturally, if these cell borders are made of fats, the type of fats we consume will drastically affect how our cells function.

There are two main types of fats:

  • Saturated Fats
    • Generally solid at room temperature
    • Animal fats, palm and coconut oil are natural sources
  • Polyunsaturated Fats
    • Generally liquid at room temperature
    • Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids
    • Found in fish, walnuts, flaxseed, canola oil, soybeans, to name a few

While there are many positive and negative effects of fat consumption, in this blog I want to look specifically at how they affect our cells.

A diet high in saturated fats will actually cause your cell’s borders to become more rigid and a diet high in polyunsaturated fats will do the opposite.  Ideally, your body needs those borders to be fluid and flexible to make it easy for your cells to communicate.  When they are so tightly packed together, it can be extremely difficult for the passage of hormones – insulin resistance is a great example of this.  It occurs when those little tadpoles are packed so closely together that it becomes difficult for insulin to enter the cells.  This leaves excess insulin floating around in your blood stream which increases your risk of type II diabetes.

Another area of the cell that is greatly impacted by fats are the peroxisomes.  The WHAT?  You don’t need to remember the name!  BUT…what you do need to remember is that these little organelles work hard all day long to break down fats consumed in our diet.  When peroxisomes break down fat, they actually produce a lot more heat than actual energy compared to what other areas of the cell can produce.  They are specialists when it comes to breaking down omega-3 fats, however they need a lot of fat in order to produce a significant amount of energy in your body.  This is GREAT news for those of us consuming omega-3’s on a regular basis because peroxisomes will burn MORE omega-3’s fats to produce the same amount of energy required by your body to do work as other areas of the cell.

While this is great news for fat consumption, it certainly doesn’t mean we need to rush out and start eating fish and consuming omega-3’s like the ocean is about to dry up.  It’s super important to stick to your recommended daily intake of omega-3, more is not necessarily better.  According to the dietitians of Canada, adult women should be consuming 1.1g/day and adult men 1.6g/day.  For the average person, you could easily achieve this by eating 2 servings of fish per week.

Consuming a diet low in saturated fats and high in polyunsaturated fats is critical not only to fat loss, but also to maintain a healthy bodily functions!  I think most of us know this by now as the media has drilled it time and time again, but often the science behind it is isn’t explained.  Hopefully this gives you some insight…and perhaps extra motivation to watch those saturated fats!

3 Things I’ve Learned from Pregnancy

IMG_1604This Tuesday marks 28 weeks of growing a little human inside of me and what an experience it’s been!  For starters, the time flies and with all the busy-ness of preparation required, I feel like the little one is going to be here before we know it!
I’ve been pretty fortunate in how I’ve been feeling thus far, I managed to evade morning sickness which was a relief.  The only symptom I can really complain about is fatigue and some joint stiffness. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, my hat goes off to women who experience the whole spectrum of symptoms!  Many of you can probably can relate to the increased awareness of your body while you’re pregnant – it’s almost impossible not to with the weekly, sometimes daily changes.  But as I’m going through this, I’m realizing how the awareness of your body when you are pregnant, really shouldn’t be much different from your awareness of your non-pregnant body!  Allow me to explain through these 3 things I’ve learned while being pregnant….

1) I’m very aware of when my body is in need of food or water
There are a few reasons for this, one of them being the obvious physical signs: almost instant thirst, hunger, fatigue, nausea, light-headedness, the second of these being my growing belly and the desire to feed the little one growing inside…I want to give her the best start possible!  But when I got to thinking, why is that until we have someone or something else in our care that we become more aware of our OWN physical needs, or even worse, we become overly concerned about their needs over our own?
Whether or not you are carrying a baby, staying properly hydrated and nourished is a huge part of living a healthy and vibrant life.  This is how we sustain energy during a busy day, stave off sicknesses and disease.  Rather than waiting for a physical sign of hunger or thirst, we should be prepared and anticipating those needs the same way we would if we were caring for a child or significant other!  This means keeping healthy snacks on hand, carrying a water bottle with you, and preparing balanced meals with lean protein, colorful veggies and savory grains!  Not only that, it also means listening to our body and paying attention to the subtle and not-so-subtle signs that it’s in need of a top-up!

Here are a few subtle signs that your body may not be getting what it needs to perform at it’s best:
– Feeling thirsty – you are already dehydrated at this point!
– Feeling sluggish or lightheaded during a workout your pre-workout meal may not have been close enough to your workout, or substantial enough
– Feeling an energy slump in the middle of the day – you may not be consuming enough protein at breakfast and lunch
– Going more than a day without a bowel movement – increase your fiber and water intake, things are getting backed up!
– Going several hours without a pee-break – you’re not drinking enough fluids and your body is hanging onto the little fluid it has received
These are subtle signs, things you may suspect are “normal” for you, but really could be related to what you might be depriving yourself of!  So challenge yourself this week to listen to the little signs your body is showing…they are little cries for help 🙂

2) Our body’s are designed to move
Yes, pregnancy, age, injury, none of these are excuses for laying on the couch…though some days this seems like the most satisfying option (guilty!).   Over the past few months I’ve experienced all kinds of aches and pains, especially throughout my hips and pelvis.  But the one pattern I’ve noticed, is it’s always worse after a period of inactivity.  Last week I did a body weight circuit after having not done anything other than walking for 2 whole weeks.  Prior to the workout it hurt to roll over and get out of bed, I felt like an 80 year old woman some mornings!  So despite feeling off my game and crappy, I put together a little 20 minute ditty and plugged away at it…my body felt the best it had in those two weeks.  You see, it doesn’t matter what you do, or what pace you do it at, or how much weight you lift, so long as your body is challenged, you’re going to see SOME benefit from it.
The secret is doing the workout that works best for you at whatever stage of life you are in.  For me, right now it’s workouts that are short, moderate intensity with multi-joint movements (using more than one muscle group in a movement) I feel a boost of energy when I’m done but I don’t feel like I’ve overdone it.

Movement does so many things for us:
– Moving our joints helps to draw synovial fluid to those areas which provide additional cushioning and nutrients required for safe and comfortable joint movement
– Moving our muscles draws blood flow to them causing them to contract and relax, allowing them to fire better and keep our metabolism fired up when we go about our daily activities.
– Exercising with proper form on a regular basis helps to activate our postural muscles helping us to better stabilize our joints in daily activities, this reduces your risk of overuse injuries.

3) Rest is critical…period.
One thing I’ve been almost forced to do is make rest more of a priority. I simply can’t get through the long days the way I was prior to pregnancy. At this point, I would compare the day after a long day to a bad hangover…not worth it!  So when I’m working, I’m working, but when I have down time, I’m having down time.  Again, what I’m realizing is that I wish I didn’t wait until pregnancy to figure this one out!  I realize that most people don’t have time to take random naps throughout the day, but there are so many other things you can do to allow your body to rest!
Part of rest and relaxation is quieting your mind and getting away from the hustle and bustle.  Taking time to be alone with your thoughts without regard for what you need to be doing next.  I find it really helpful to schedule these times in so you can be fully present, not worrying about the remaining events of the day. This does need to be hours of your time.  Even incorporating 20-30 minutes a day of something rejuvenating can help to lower your stress levels and reduce your risk of sickness and injury!  You won’t fully understand this until you try it, so I challenge you to incorporate at least 2 rejuvenation sessions this week.

These are a few examples of rejuvenating activities you can do to quiet your mind and lower your stress levels:
– Take a leisure walk(this should be a relaxing pace, not a workout) outside and leave your phone or music at home
– Spend time reading a fiction novel, something that allows you to escape your current reality
– Find a quiet space to meditate or pray
– Find a dimly lit, quiet area to do a mobility (stretching) session, I find in the quiet spaces it’s easiest to be aware of the areas of your body that are holding tension

In addition to these things, you will see significant results in your energy levels and the quality of rest you have at night if you do the following:
– Go to bed before 10pm
– Avoid alcohol or caffeine in the evening (‘m continually amazed at how well I sleep when I don’t consume either of these…who knew?😊)
– Turn off all screens before bed, have a warm bath or shower
– Read insightful books (rather than fiction) that have a positive and uplifting message but still require some thought, focus on only a chapter at a time, not a marathon read in one night!

Remember, the next episode on Netflix can always wait for another night, one load of laundry can wait until the morning.  Sometimes you just need to set other things aside to make a little bit of time for yourself.  When your body is under stress, whether it’s physical or emotional, it’s constantly in a state of fight or flight making it very difficult to ward off sicknesses, heal injuries or lose weight.  Take some time for yourself and see if you note any difference.  What’s the harm in trying just a few sessions over the next few weeks?  If all fails, you can always go back to how you were doing things before, but my guess is that you won’t!!  You’re going to find yourself more energetic and productive than ever before when you start to listen to what your body is telling you and take action on it!!!!
Get at it ladies, let’s work at being the best versions of ourselves by taking a little ‘me’ time 🙂


Anyone who ate healthy this weekend is lame

Maybe an extreme?  But seriously though, it was Halloween weekend people, we all indulged a little and why shouldn’t we?  Isn’t that one of the perks of sticking to your routine on all of the other days?  It makes sense, but why is it so hard to accept that?  This morning I found myself believing the lie that if I indulged a little too much this weekend that my entire efforts up to that point had been a crap-shoot.  That’s when you need a good girlfriend to knock some sense into you!

This week I’m entering my 25th week of pregnancy.  I’ve made a major effort to not focus on the number on the scale going up, but rather to focus on the things that I’ve been doing for my body.  Just as a check-in, I’ve been weighing myself every 2-3 weeks.  So far it’s been a slow and steady gain…very healthy for mama and baby…until this weekend!  Between a family dinner, frozen pizzas and Halloween treats, drinking liters upon liters of water to combat the sudden increase in sodium intake, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the 4lbs increase on the scale this morning.  But that little devil of self-doubt reared her ugly head today shouting accusations of  my of lack of discipline over the weekend.

It took me a workout, healthy breakfast and venting session with my best friend to finally get my head on straight!  Firstly, a lot of the increase can be attributed to water retention, not all of it, but certainly some of it and I can feel the puffiness to prove it! Secondly, all it took was one weigh in for me to suddenly discredit myself for all of the GOOD things I’ve been doing for my body over the past 25 weeks!  How many of you struggle with this battle and suddenly fall victim to numbers on the scale after an off-week?  This can be a scary downward spiral leading to a complete crash and abandonment of all those fantastic things you were doing prior to seeing that arbitrary number on the scale.

As a side note, I believe the scale should be used as a general guide, it’s not 100% accurate due to things like water retention and muscle mass (to name a few), the best measure is always how you feel and how your clothes fit!  If the scale is sending you on an emotional roller coaster, causing you to obsess over a number, get rid of it and choose a more subjective way to measure. Our minds are very powerful and things that cause a negative mindset can be destructive to the good things we are doing!

So this morning I made the decision to come up with 3 simple go-to’s to squash this mindset before it has the chance to get the best of me again:

1.   Mindset Reminder: Stay consistent, not perfect!

This little reminder means helps me to be a lot kinder to myself when it comes to indulgence and feeling guilty.  I’m reminded that it’s okay to sit back and enjoy a few slices of pizza or Halloween candies. Indulge and enjoy knowing that those things are always going to be there, the box of Halloween candy we didn’t have the chance to give out doesn’t have to be nibbled on day in and day out.  It can sit in the cupboard available as an occasional treat.  In this mindset I aim to focus on the big rocks, the things I do daily that help to keep me on track rather than focusing on avoiding the things that get me off track.  Everything in moderation!

2.   Acknowledge my successes (and continue to build on them)

I will take time to reflect on the good things I did all week rather than the over-indulgences I enjoyed over the weekend or whenever.  Viewing those indulges as negative brings on feelings of guilt and failure..this is a slippery slope people!  Put them behind you and focus on building on the awesome things you did, like drinking water, eating a healthy breakfast, getting a great workout.  When you’re focusing on your healthy habits, and enjoying the occasional indulgence in moderation you’re less likely to over-indulge anyway because your body will be feeling satisfied!

3.   Immediately incorporate 3 of my top 5 tricks to stay on track  (sign up for my newsletter to find out what these are!)

It’s important to recognize that this is not a disciplinary action, but it serves to steer my mind away from what I think to be a failure and get myself up and running again.  These are my go-to’s and they are fail-safe because I know they work for me and my lifestyle if I stick to them on a regular basis!  I chose them!  So I know if I can at least nail 3 of them right away I can find my groove again.

There you have it.  Stop beating yourself up and start taking action this week!  It doesn’t need to be a clean sweep, just one or two things at a time and you will be surprised how amazing you feel by the end of the week.

Cheers to enjoying life’s little indulgences…don’t be lame!

What’s for dinner?

How many times have you asked yourself, your spouse or your family that question?  There are certainly weeks where that question comes up in our house!….and I get the same answer…”I don’t know”

My husband Kofi is a picky eater but by now I know well enough what he does and doesn’t like – though I have been able to talk him into eating a few things that prior to trying, he claimed he didn’t like 🙂 At the end of the day he is pretty easy to please, for the most part he eats whatever I make as long as he knows what it is. (as an aside, I did try “tricking” him into eating bison and it didn’t go over so well, I wouldn’t recommend this technique in your marriage lol)

You would think that cooking for someone who is easy to please would make deciding what to cook for dinner easier, but I still struggle some days!

Unhealthy vs healthy food

I wanted to share a few of my strategies for simplifying that 5pm, “what’s for dinnner” dilemma.

1) Meal plan

This is by far the most effective strategy.  When my schedule allows, and I do my best to make time for this, I spend about 45min-1hr on Sundays planning dinner for the week.  Firstly, I take a look at our schedule – what’s going on, who’s home which nights, which days are the longest (in other words I won’t feel like doing much!), which days are shortest (more prep time on these days).  Then I take a quick peek in the freezer, fridge and pantry to see what I have on hand.  From there, I come up with 2-3 fail-safe recipes that we eat on a regular basis, double check the recipe ingredients and add anything I don’t have on hand to my grocery list.  Next, I take a look either online or in my recipe books for 2-3 new recipes, I like looking online best because of the reviews, but I have come to realize that a few of the recipe books I own have more hits than misses for good dinners!  I choose 2-3, check the ingredient list and add to my grocery list what I don’t have.  VOILA!!!!  Dinner ideas prepped, grocery list complete.  These weeks are a breeze!

2) Keep frozen meat and veggies on hand

This is something I learned from my Mom, growing up in rural Alberta where grocery stores are open limited hours and are always a 10-15min drive minimum away, you need to have meat and veggies in the freezer!  If I haven’t had time to meal plan on the weekend and we’re having a really busy week, the one thing I ALWAYS do is take meat out of the freezer in the morning.  That way at the very least I have one thing ready to go when I get home.  I realize I could pick up fresh meat on the way home, but I like to stock up on fresh meat when it’s on sale and freeze it in smaller packages at home 🙂

In the summer it’s easy to bbq the meat and either grill or make a salad out of whatever veggies we have in the fridge.  In the winter, I usually opt for a stir-fry or steamed veggies alongside whatever I took out that morning.  It’s also easy enough to pick up veggies for a side dish or salad on the way home from work!

3) Have someone else do the cooking

For those days when you’re totally drained, take advantage of modern day conveniences!  Most local groceries stores sell rotisserie chicken hot and ready to go.  Pick up one of these babies, a bag of pre-chopped stir-fry veggies, pre-made salads, and/or bell peppers.  Shred the chicken and make a stir-fry, chicken salad or chicken wraps (try lettuce wraps for a leaner choice!).

Pre-Workout Prep – Y’all ready for this?

I will never forget the first and only time I’ve ever thrown up and passed out due to exercise because it was such a strange and random experience.  I was in the 3rd year of my Kinesiology degree in Calgary.  At this stage in my school I was back at Mount Royal College completing the Athletic Therapy program for my major.  In our “Clinical Rehabilitation” class we were studying various cardio programs that could be implemented for people who wanted to maintain their fitness while rehabilitating their injuries.

As a little background, this year was probably the most stressful of my university days due to the demanding curriculum and practicum commitments.  Classes, studying, clinical hours and working with varsity teams consumed days, evenings and weekends.  Needless to say, my personal health was not a top priority but I still managed to make time for a few workouts here and there…this was definitely a year of maintenance in the health and fitness department!

Back to class, 8am sharp we met at the gym with our lab partners (yes, in Kinesiology many of our “labs” were in the gym) ready to take each other through the paces.  On the docket that day were sprints on the stationary bike.  We were learning to challenge our anaerobic systems so the drill was short, only 10 minutes-ish, but during that 10 minutes we completed 10sec all-out sprints with 30sec recovery periods.  Now you have to understand, in a class full of individuals who love physical activity, almost every activity is an unspoken competition.  I think this is particularly true among girls… “Ohhhh, I think I’m only going to go about 80% today”  HAH. Fooled you!!! I sprinted my brains out for this 10 minute “lab” exercise.  Anyhow, the drill wasn’t so bad but about 15 minutes afterward I suddenly felt a wave of nausea come over me.  I cool-ly, “I’m feeling great” made my way over to the bathroom where the bagel I consumed about 30 minutes prior made a reappearance.  Interestingly enough, after this I felt completely fine.  First time that ever happened to me, I swear.  But I felt fine after so I carried on, business as usual!

The second half of the class was in the exercise studio where we stood in a group watching our prof give instructions.  Suddenly I started seeing stars and felt wobbly so I just put my hand on the shoulder of a friend standing next to me when all of a sudden BAM.. lights out!  I don’t think I was out for long and lucky for me the only thing truly wounded was my pride 🙂

tired runner

At the time I’m thinking what the heck??? This never happens to me and it felt so random!  But here’s the thing, was it really random? Could it have been prevented?

Enter the REAL physiology lesson of the day – fuel your workouts! Today’s lesson specifically dives into the details of why your body needs this fuel, preceded by a clear example of what can happen if you don’t give your body what it needs to exercise efficiently!  Here are a few reasons why my body reacted the way it did that day:

1) Insufficient time between eating and exercising:

I chose a high fiber bagel that morning and scarfed it down 30 minutes before rushing to class.  Though they are not a bad choice, high fiber foods are not ideal pre-workout (less than 60 minutes prior to exercise) snacks because your body takes a long time to digest them.  They’re going to sit in your stomach for longer than say, a piece of fruit or a glass of juice, which are considered simple carbohydrates and very easy to digest.   My tummy was hard at work trying to process the carbohydrates in that bagel, but it just didn’t have enough time!  By the time I had hopped on the bike to start my sprints there was a sudden demand for blood flow to my muscles so they could receive the nutrients they needed to perform, taking away from the blood flow sent to help with digestion.  So where did this leave my bagel? Lonely and half-digested in the pit of my stomach.  Post-workout my body was in recovery mode, working hard to clear the lactate and hydrogen that were causing an acidic state in my body.  Digesting food was no longer at the top of my body’s priority list – no energy to digest the bagel meant my body needed to get rid of it ASAP!

2) Low blood sugar:

By the time you wake up in the morning, your body has been fasting for as long as you’ve been sleeping – for most people that’s at least 6-8 hours.  To say your energy stores are depleted would be an understatement.  My blood sugars were low when I arrived to class as my digestive system was still working hard at getting the energy from my bagel into my blood stream.  The main fuel source for short-burst anaerobic exercise is carbohydrate, something my body was severly lacking prior to that workout.  So I was starting my workout running on empty, a problem in itself that aggravated another issue:

3) High cortisol levels:

Cortisol is a hormone released when your body is under stress (physical or emotional) and too much of this stress causes your body to break down amino acids (protein!) and convert them to carbohydrate, it’s a catabolic hormone.  Under the stress of school and more acutely, the stress of the sprinting, my cortisol levels were likely rampant.  The result? Cortisol was breaking down the protein in my muscles, desperate to synthesize fuel to restore the catabolic state I had suddenly created.  I had my body running at full steam doing everything it could to bring me back to a resting state but I just didn’t have enough in me, sending me crashing, literally!

This is a bit of an extreme case, but every now and again we find ourselves in varying levels of this situation!  Maybe you’re not throwing up or passing out per se, but your body might be working overtime, depleting your energy stores and sending you into survival mode. A stressful week at work or at home, combined with lack of sleep, sends you to the gym to give ‘er guns in hopes of reducing that stress.  If your body is improperly fueled and run down like mine was, you’re going to send it crashing.  This is why pre-workout nutrition, proper rest and stress management are so important not only to our general health, but also to achieving the results we’re hoping for when we exercise!

Here are your take-aways to FEEL your BEST in any workout:

1) Rest up!  Especially the night before a workout you know is going to be pushing your upper limits.

2) Fuel up! Ensure you have something to eat prior to working out.  If you’re working out early in the morning with little time between eating and exercise, choose simple carbohydrates like fruit, blended juices or smoothies. These foods are easy for your body to digest quickly and will provide you with the fuel you need. If you are working out later during the day, aim for a pre-workout meal 2-3 hours before working out including a serving of veggies, a serving of protein, a serving of carbohydrate and a small serving of healthy fat.

3) Lighten up! Make time for rest and rejuvenation throughout the day, this is quiet time for your body to slow down. It doesn’t have to be a long rest, even taking 5 minutes away from your desk, computer, cell phone, television, or whatever you’re doing can make an impact on your stress levels and cortisol release.  Think simple things like stepping outside for a breath of fresh air, read a few pages in a book, mediate, look out the window, anything that takes you into la-la land and away from your current situation.  You’ll be amazed at how refreshed you feel going back to whatever you’re doing.

Here’s to a week of keeping your food down and staying vertical at the gym!!! 🙂





Core Training? …that’s so 2005

The fitness industry has seen its share of trends and fads over the past few decades.  I can remember at a young age, my Mom in the living room sweating through various videos with titles like “Buns of Steel”, the classic “It Figures” aerobics session on TV each morning – mostly because this signified the morning run of cartoons were over.  In school I remember Billy Blanks’ “Tai-Bo” – as girls in high school we had the option to do these videos instead of running outside when the weather was crappy – you can guess what we chose!

10 years ago “core training” was hot in the fitness industry and it was everywhere, articles online, top 10 best core exercises gracing magazine covers, belly-blaster fitness classes, you name it, it was out there.  A strong core was the answer to everything back-pain related and a solid core workout was the secret to achieving that elusive bikini body.  Why was it so trendy? Because it worked!  People all over started doing exercises like planks and utilizing swiss balls to challenge their core in all kinds of wacky ways and with this, people were seeing significant reductions in back pain.  For the truly disciplined, when combined with a good diet and lots of cardio, that elusive 6-pack actually made an appearance.

I remember being in Costa Rica attending bible school and a group of girls gathered each morning under the careful guidance of one of the girls as she directed her personal “6-minute ab routine” all in hopes of avoiding the extra weight gain associated with travel…not to mention… she had that 6-pack of abs everyone was chasing!

Fast forward to 2015 – today.  One of the biggest trends now in training is GLUTES!  “Sculpt a better booty” “10 exercises to your best butt” “5 best exercises for a perky bum” “Brazil butt lift workout” – and this is just the first page on google! So is it just a crazy fad?  The next best thing for everyone that’s grown bored of holding a plank for minutes at a time?  Or is there actually something to it?  And more importantly, do we ditch the planks to focus on glutes now?

While core strength is still important, there’s so much more to a strong, functioning core than just the muscles in your tummy area, our mid-sections are much more complicated than that! You see, many of the muscles surrounding the pelvis (think booty and hips) also connect to the low back.  There are over a dozen muscles throughout your hips and pelvis that all contribute to the position of your pelvis and how it moves – why does this matter?  Because your back and the muscles of your “core” are all connected to your pelvis – if there is muscle imbalance in your pelvis, your core function is going to be affected.

So why the focus on glutes?  Glutes are a large muscle that helps to not only stabilize your pelvis, it’s what propels you forward during a walk or run, it gives you that extra peppy step to take the stairs two at time, they help us to lift heavy objects and climb hills.  Glutes play a pretty big role in allowing us to function in our daily activities, and for the really active crowd, it’s what helps us do the things we love with strength and efficiency.

Our unfortunate reality is that we are becoming a society of people who spend most of our day sitting and sitting is no good for good glutes!

Glute Cycle

Muscle imbalance is one of the main causes of overuse injuries in the low back, hips and knees and when pain is present we become limited in what we are physically able to do.  So there is something to this glute activation/strengthening trend.  But does this mean that we need to ditch out on the core work to address the glutes?  No way.  We need both for our body to function optimally, so we can do the workouts and activities that you truly enjoy.  BUTT (hehe) if you haven’t been addressing your glutes, try incorporating this mini glute circuit into your workout regime today to get them fired up!  …and remember a functioning booty will also become a good-looking booty!

Click the photo to open in a new window and get a closer look 🙂