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Get Results THIS WEEK, the Simple Way

Can you look and feel better in a matter of days? Yup. 

Big & giant yes to that one. 

When we're stuck, we're usually feeling rushed, panicked, stressed, and maybe approaching fitness and nutrition like another task on our already heavily weighted schedule.  Approaching your health with this kind of burdensome determination works against you.

Simplifying your life looks like different things to different people. 

You might have to cut back on plans, clean your house, cook some food... like I did this weekend. Maybe you have to knock a few things out of the way. 

One thing for sure is that you need to SIMPLIFY.  

Your second non-negotiable is to remain CONSISTENT.

Your third is to TRUST THE PROCESS.  Remain confident in this path of simplicity and consistency.

You do not have to be training incredibly hard to get results. Train smart, in a positive headspace, and exercise consistently. 

You do not have to be eating strictly to get there quickly.  Eat balanced meals, in a positive headspace.  You can be eating clean, but if it comes from a place of stress or obsession it can work against you. Go after nutritionally dense meals, in appropriate portions. When you are not eating, think about other things and channel your success and progress from your nutrition into those other things.

This week, be kind to yourself. Move with ease, give yourself time and space to stay focused and congruent. Have your own back, get behind your intentions. Then make sure you keep it up for at least four days. Your skin will be brighter, energy higher, body leaner and optimism all plumped up. What a perfect area for a plump...

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My Personal Supplement Routine

I don't push supplements on clients, but I do share my experience.  Sometimes too, if a client is already following a well-balanced and nutritious diet and having trouble with energy crashes, I might have them get their micronutrients tested and potentially take some in depending on their results.

The combination that I've found over the years works best for me realistically only happens about 5 days a week. Although I might usually choose nutritious foods on the weekends, I loosen up routine and control, and go with the flow more.

During the week, most days, I take the following:

Fish oils, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, a B/C complex, Magnesium, Calcium + Zinc, and sometimes Biotin. 

Also, most days I make a green smoothie that includes Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Proteins + (vanilla) protein powder, or sometimes I'll skip the protein. If I skip protein powder, it consists of a bit of fruit, a huge handful of spinach or kale, 1 tsp spirulina, 1 T hemp seeds (both protein) and some unsweetened almond milk and / or water.

I also love love love Sunwarrior Super Greens with Mint for an extra pump of rarer greens that no matter what, if I have instead of coffee, brightens my mood and energy.

I have yet to have pushed or promoted any supplements for compensation, but rather intend to share what sincerely has me feeling my best. I have in the past visited naturopaths (two) and after many years of experimenting, this is what works best for me at the moment.

If you are curious about what could be helping to boost you up or round out your diet, I'd recommend checking in with a naturopath. You can be clear that you don't want to spend a fortune on supplements, but just want to find out in what areas you might benefit from a little extra jolt of micronutrient power.

If you want some great information on supplements to help boost your immune system, follow this link to watch a video by naturopath Tara Campbell about what she advises this time of year.

Tara Campbell's Immune System Advice

As always, make sure that the food you eat is going to work to keep you balanced, energized and healthy. That's your first priority!

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Competition and Social Media

This comes up with clients almost every single day.

With our ability to access and get intimate with the details of each other's lives, those we know and do not know, comes a lot of positive outcome. Such as generating inspiration, getting new ideas from others, making connections, and ultimately feeling motivated to redesign endlessly. Whether that redesign be for our minds, bodies, lifestyle landscape or living rooms. 

The downside, as obvious as it may seem, is that in a world that already dishes out pressure to rise and match others to remain feeling relevant, the pressure can be exacerbated with all of this access to the achievements (and sometimes fabricated or at least optically buffed achievements) of others. We are running our personas like a business. We are marketing our lives. And we are sometimes so aggressively viewing and evaluating those around us, and trying to match certain portrayals, that we are compromising our true selves.  In doing so, we are ripping off the world of a pretty valuable package!

You, uniquely you, contribute to our diversity.  Your workout does not need to look like anyone else's, nor does your body.  Your body will look AND feel amazing when - and only when - it is doing what is right for it individually. When we live always striving to hit a level or fit a mould of another, we end up living an almost artificial existence, skimming the surface. Not only that, but we might be skipping over important work that we need to do for our individuality both when it comes to workouts, and when it comes to personality.  How do you get the most out of life? Being your true self, and allowing yourself to improve and evolve in a way that's purely for you. 

Seeking inspiration and lending it to your evolution is great. Just make sure that you're not skipping ahead and thus landing in a position where you might have more voids, because you're following an "un-you" path.

Sometimes I'll have clients send me videos of fancy and fun-looking exercises, but as a trainer who knows their biomechanics, I have to say - just because this looks exciting and effective for this person, does not mean that it's meant for you. It doesn't mean one person is better than the other. We are all so intrinsically different and need to respect our individual strength and weakness, and be comfortable finding the right FIT for us.

Workouts, and otherwise. And when you find the right fit, in a workout, in a style, in supporting your authentic personality, in a counterpart... there is no better feeling. It's worth taking time to question whether the things we are striving toward are really meant for our individuality, or whether we'll be squashing a more important part of ourselves in the process.

 

 

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Low Budget, High Health

A little over a month ago, I did a little "eat what's in your fridge" challenge for myself.  In trying to change and adhere to new habits, we have to make little challenges for ourselves to adapt and morph.

Self discipline and compromise do not come naturally for me (insert a Taurus sign here), and I believe we have to really want change to start making the sacrifices to get there. When it comes to food, should we really be always getting what we want? Should we really be rolling our eyes, tired of the same old, fussing about wanting extras and being so... spoiled? Of course, we want to be healthy and nutritious as much as we can. But it doesn't mean we need to keep replenishing the new and tossing the old, when there is perfectly good nutrition available in our freezers.  So, I gave myself this challenge, and as a bonus it presents a good post on what inexpensive things to keep on hand to keep yourself healthy, moving through your weeks when money might be tighter (and maybe your pants are, too).

There are a few things that I keep on hand at all times that really came in handy. The trick is to stock up when you have the cash flow and it can really last & last when the flow might dwindle - OR catch them on sale:

  • Almond milk
  • Eggs
  • Frozen Spinach
  • Frozen Half Bananas
  • Protein Powder
  • Spinach Vermicelli or Bean Thread Noodles
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Oats
  • Nuts of Some Kind (Pumpkin Seeds in this case)
  • Canned Tuna or Salmon
  • Chickpeas

I also had some fresh kale.  So I began with massaging that kale in some olive oil, tossed in some rinsed chick peas, hemp seeds, leftover avocado and cranberries.  I used my standard salad dressing that I whip up in a batch and keep handy (see the recipe here). Bam, 2-3 meals.  And you know what? It was so, so delicious and satisfying. Balanced with greens, carbs, protein and health fats for a quick grab.

I had leftover puffed quinoa and had that for breakfasts.  If I don't have this kind of thing on hand, I make my own cereal with 1/3 cup of oats, a sprinkle each of dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds and some almond milk.

Needing some extra protein, my protein powder comes in handy for snacks.  I often toss in some spinach, but I didn't have any fresh spinach so I had a protein shake on its own with some almond milk and half a frozen banana in the blender.  I basically don't have protein shakes WITHOUT some frozen banana - it froths it up like a milkshake and is such a game changer.

I needed another central batch of food and didn't have anymore chickpeas, frozen fish or any other protein. Except... eggs. So, I made a stirfry with eggs, frozen spinach and vermicelli.  A little garlic, some tamari and oil, and it sustained me through another few meals.  And it was so good that I'm definitely going to repeat that dish!

Once you invest in having few staples on hand (ingredients for your salad dressings, frozen produce, eggs and legumes, oat and rice noodles) you don't have to spend a fortune on your groceries.  And certainly, you can eat inexpensively on a budget. You just need to know your nutrition, be motivated enough not to cave and excuse yourself to eat processed foods, and value a good challenge.

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10 Reasons My Clients Hate Me

"10 Things I Hate About You!"

Clients recruit trainers for support and accountability, professional and strategic planning, supervision, and as a healthy conscience to carry around through their days navigating decisions that will impact the rest of their lives.

We deliver. 

Unfortunately, this sometimes makes them hate us.

Here are the top ten things, in my experience, that make my clients swear at me, leave the room, or tell me they hate me. 

1) I make them switch to natural peanut butter.

2) Adding "finishers" at the end of a workout when they think they've already finished.

3) When they ask what the best cereal to eat is, and I tell them to make their own.

4) When I advise cutting back on fruit if their sugar cravings are rampant.

5) Burpees.

6) When I can sense whether they're cheating or not (yes, I can see your heel right through your shoe).

7) When I hold them accountable. You hired me to get a job done, I'm here to make sure you make yourself proud.

8) When I make a tiny adjustment that changes how you experience the entire exercise. (Yup, you were subconsciously avoiding the recruitment of your core, and nope I'm not going to let you, and yup it's going to hurt a little).

9) When I tell them that no, chocolate milk is not a recovery drink, no, fruit juice is on the menu, and yes, you can have too much avocado in one sitting even though it's healthy!

10) Slow tedious-for-you tweaks to change your posture and biomechanics.  I will not let you skip over important work just because you want run, jump and sweat. We will stop and address corrections as needed, because my clients and I do not do crooked anatomies together in this work.

BONUS:

11) I won't flinch when you tell me how much you hate me. Because you'll love me when you feel brand new, fit, happy and functional. Love ya!

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Planet of the Apps

Hi, fellow half robots! I've been concocting this post in my mind for quite a long time, but it's time to throw it down.

Isn't it crazy how QUICKLY technology is changing things? In so many ways, it's an incredible advancement for us. It makes life swifter, we are better connected. We are never alone for very long. 

Case in point, when I had a little health emergency in June and woke up unable to move, my phone was RIGHT beside me. When I finally did move, and fainted, I was able to tell how long I'd been out on my bathroom floor because of panic texts to my friend! We are able to dabble in being somewhat robotic, and to tracks things, and to get help when we need it, which is great. 

On the other hand, we have profiles, passwords and platforms ALL OVER the place.  We have the socials (Twitter, Facebook, Insta, Snap, etc), we have the platforms to manage the socials (Hootsuite, etc), and in business we are meant to hire brands to manage the platforms. We have domains, we have hosting, we have servers and platforms (do I really know the difference yet? Nope. I just keep saying "platforms".)  We have apps to track our food, to plan our workouts, to do our banking, to help us meditate, to call for a ride, to order food, to change the channel, to breed a romance(!), to create graphic design, etc. Much of the advice we are getting from professionals (turned influencer marketers) are ADVERTISEMENTS, now.  Coaches are scooped up by brands and have cookie cutter messages they send out to their readers to attempt to sell products over services. I even had someone hire me in real time for a training program, only to tell me AFTER I met with and later sent it to him that thank you, my input was very useful for an app he was putting together. Hm.  

So here's the thing about fitness, and apps.  And believe me, this is not a defensive post, because I really believe fitness apps and training apps can be incredibly useful to those who either cannot afford a personal trainer, or who cannot access one, but want to be sure they can begin exercising safely. We will likely have one available for our participants in the near future. But even so...

Our physical bodies are as UNROBOTIC as it gets.  Nerves, emotions, the psyche, unique physical patterns, proprioception and pain. So here we are, managing our lives, composing our representation, channeling our intent through technology while our well-being really sits where it always has. In a natural, physical body.  

Being inquisitive by nature, I spend a lot of time thinking about and examining waves of change around me. Deconstructing what I see and experience. My work is one of the most important things in my life, so I'm always trying to figure out how to deliver the most meaning in these one-hour blips of human contact with my participants trying to better their lives. 

I think with the direction that the world is going in, we do risk losing something of enormous value which is lifestyle discussion. A back and forth, in person, with facial expressions, with real time listening.  No bubbling, wavering dots waiting as another types. Discussing family, health, setbacks, pain and fears and how they affect the physical body and the pathway to a person's goals. One of the most important parts of LIFE is discussing its ins and outs, the human to human 3D conversation.  What we really need for success is not in a product, it is in our minds and bodies.  

Do you agree? How are you guys feeling about the direction we're taking? 

Again, I'm not resisting, but I do sometimes feel a bit worried that we're so heavily invested in our MACHINES that too much of us is sitting outside of our physical beings now. Or is it really us? And if it is, is that not worse to be unloaded on something unnatural? Are we becoming too connected to the persona we're creating that our true selves are becoming depleted in the process?  And it's a bit ironic to throw this down on a technological "platform" - ha - but I do so after many, many conversations with my wise, in-person friends and family.  Let's keep this discussion going, if for no other reason to strengthen our non-robotic sides. Now I think I'll go get my blood pumping and hug a tree to make up for having launched my Monday with my screen. :)

I not only welcome your feedback, I crave it. 

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Charity Workout #2 Benefitted Right to Play

Guys, just a massive thank you again for those who attended our July 29th workout at Trinity Bellwoods Park, led by drillmaster Satch and myself.  We collected $50 from participants and matched them for a total donation of $100 for Right to Play.

We had a lot of competition that weekend, with Beerfest and Wayhome, among a million other things our lovely city has going on in the summer. So those of you who sacrificed an hour of your Saturday morning (and a few who busted through their hangovers!) we really appreciate it!

We chose Right to Play for July's charity workout because as we are setting out to emphasize the importance of activity and its connection to bettering our society, Right to Play's efforts showcase this very thing. Also, we have been choosing organizations that mean something to YOU, our participants and readers. Thank you for joining us on July 29th!

Here are some words about this organization, by this organization:

Right To Play protects, educates and empowers children through the power of play.

A global organization committed to improving the lives of children and youth affected by conflict, disease and poverty, Right To Play has pioneered a unique play-based approach to learning and development that uses play in all of its forms – games, creative play, sport, free play – to engage children in programs that focus on making a positive impact in quality education, health and well-being, gender equality, child protection and building peaceful communities. Led by 70,000 trained local teachers and volunteer Coaches, Right To Play’s cost-effective, sustainable, and life-changing programs reach more than one million children worldwide each week.  

In Canada, programming includes Youth To Youth (Y2Y), a Toronto-based peer-to-peer youth leadership program, and the Promoting Life-skills in Aboriginal Youth (PLAY) program, which partners with more than 85 Indigenous communities and urban organizations across Canada to co-develop play-based youth programs and focusses on improved health, education, resiliency, and employability.

To learn more visit www.righttoplay.ca, follow @RightToPlayCAN on Twitter and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

 

Stay tuned for information about our next charity sweat, scheduled for Aug26th.

Satch and I are welcoming feedback on desired times (weekday evening instead?) and charities that matter to you, for our future events.  We are launching these fun, community-building and benefitting workouts indefinitely, and would LOVE to see you out at one!

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Knee Pain, Back Pain? Look to the Core.

Because this comes up so often, I see it in our classes / bootcamps and one-on-one with clients, I decided it's time to announce to the majority of people who experience back and knee pain to make sure they are looking at their cylinder, first.

When I say cylinder I am referring to the trunk, shoulders down.  There are three main points of focus that I work to strengthen with all clients: the lower traps, rhomboids and lats (think about the midback muscles you use to squeeze the shoulders down and back), the abodminal group AND lower back extensors (core) and the glutes.  When your cylinder is strong, the extremities are not held responsible for all stabilization which can lead to misuse and aggravation.

The core and trunk are the primary source of most of our movements, and when you focus on building your strength there, and then recruiting your strength FROM there, you're more likely to have the form that will not only get you great results efficiently, but also protect you from pain and injury.

A weak or misfiring core or glute group is not ALWAYS the cause of knee or lower back pain, but should be explored. More often than not, when a client complains of this and then I assess their movement and biomechanics, I do find weakness or inefficient recruitment of these cylinder muscles. 

And as always, every single body is different. If this is not the case for you, you might be best to get a proper assessment with a professional.

Sit or stand up straight, lock in your core, move with power and grace, and have a great week.

 

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The First Steps to Change Direction

If you're stuck heading in one direction in which you're feeling lethargic all the time, uninspired, the events just keep coming and your food cravings are so strong that you feel you don't have any control, start here.

1 - Commit.  Committing to something means deciding that you want it more than the alternative.  Assuming you've already decided this, that you want to feel like you're getting better every day and not worse, write down your commitment so that it's out of your body and not just another thought floating around with the thousands of other ideas you have daily.

2 - Cut out processed wheat and dairy. They are two of the top allergens and avoiding them will lead to avoiding addictive foods keeping you in a cycle in which you feel you have little control.  You will also likely feel more energetic and clear-headed by day three, not to mention leaner.

3 - Sweat.  I know, it sounds simple and obvious.  But you'd be surprised how much we need to be reminded why.  When you break a little sweat you start stirring endorphins and switch that direction right away. Out with the old, in with the new.  You now how your mood can change after just one workout? Make that an element of the bigger picture. Start with SOMETHING, ANYTHING, 4-5x week. Even if twenty minutes is all you can spare / day, make it count.

4 - Sacrifice. If you're trying to change the direction you're headed in, something's gotta give.  You have to either leave events early, skip some of them, skip that last episode and get to bed earlier... You have to make a bit of a trade. Prove to yourself that you want it, invest some of your life into it. Act the part! You need your psyche and your actions on board, and by wiggling things around to make more room for healthier eating and exercise, you are re-emphasizing this relationship every day.  It needs love and effort just like any other relationship.

Start here, and just in case you need to reminded in the thick of the dog days of summer, IT'S STILL WORTH IT.  Make a few small moves from here, and get more out of your days.

Train Relaxed for Best Results

My clients laugh at me when I tell them they need to be relaxed while they train.  Whether it's running, sports specific training or HIIT / strength moves, you need a certain level of calm in order to streamline your energy to the appropriate places, and not let it get trapped up in the wrong ones.  So, I first ensure that clients are comfortable and confident, even laughing if necessary, when we begin our work together. You have to always start at the right level for the individual in order to be able to build properly from there, and not throw too much at the body so that it is seized up in order to counter the wrong approach.

When we are stressed, our shoulders are lifted up by our ears, our spines are rounded forward, lungs collapsed and muscles tensed but not loaded.  For proper muscle loading, we must straighten the spine, relax the shoulders, engage muscles of the cylinder (core, shoulder blades, glutes), encourage complete breathing and blood flow. 

Often times people think that you have to amp yourself up in a panic to do an intense workout.  This is not true. For those who dislike running, the key is actually to calm down and centre yourself in order to be able to go harder, longer. You have to engage the core, focus on your breathing (keeping it consistent and monotonous), keep the neck long and land softly on your feet. 

Not only does learning these tricks align well with proper form, correct postural imbalances and lead to faster results, but it also helps the participant to connect better with their intentions.  When you relax or quiet the parts of the body not meant to seize up, and channel your energy to the parts that you want in the lead, you strengthen the mind body connection essential for enjoying your work and your progress.  And guess what that leads to?  Consistency. And guess what that leads to? Permanent results.

If you workout well, you will get great results and you will enjoy it.  Then, you can strengthen a lifelong relationship with fitness. 

 

Our First "Carve Some Good" Charity Bootcamp

On Saturday, June 24th we held our first FREE bootcamp (I much prefer the term group workout) in Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto.  Trainer Satch took the lead and I kicked in on some form tips, and despite my injury we managed to have a GREAT workout packed with core and of course, a ton of fun. 

The first bootcamp was to generate awareness for local charity Stella's Place who provide resources and a space for young adults, ages 16-29, to aid in caring for their mental health. We raised $85, and Pure Transformation kicked in for a total of $325 for the charity.

We chose this charity this time around because we want to keep fitness focused on the tremendous good it does for BOTH physical and mental health. It's easy these days to get lost in trends and pressure, but wellness changes lives in the most dramatic ways. We are going to remain loud about these benefits and do as much as we can to generate awareness about these important ties.

On top of having perfect weather, the best spot for an outdoor workout, we had a solid team turn up. Thank you to everyone who came out!

Our next group workout for charity will include healthy snack samples and will be held same place, same time on July 22nd. Join us!

Charity announcement will be made soon. Thank you for your kickass attitude and support!

 

 

The Ingredients for your Best Workout

I've been writing so very much about mindset over these past 550+ posts.  Sometimes I leave the true workout breakdowns to the sessions themselves, but I think it's helpful to most of you if I share a (somewhat) basic list of what your relationship with fitness should look like, ideally. A list of what components you should include in your workouts.

These days, everything seems to be so separated. Hitting different classes and methods can be great to add variety, but sometimes even with classes we fall into one main modality and miss the mark in other areas.  There's HIIT, barre, yoga, pilates, running, crossfit, martial arts, walking, sprinting, spinning... it's difficult to choose what's right for you and where to best spend your energy and time.  And every day, someone in this industry is trying to squash other modalities in order to be competitive. And it gets confusing! Who's sincere? More importantly, what's best for YOU individually?

Try to tick these boxes with your workout repertoire and you're likely to be in your best shape, securely fit and healthy for your future and also happy & balanced in your present.

Interval Training

Yes, it can be one of the most effective methods to improve your overall fitness. To keep your heart rate conditioned for high bursts and quick recovery (so if you ever need to dash after or away from something suddenly, you won't drop dead). It boosts metabolism and burns fat.

Strength Training

Classic strength moves are classic for a reason.  Use a mixture of specific exercises and broader, compound movements to keep all of your muscles strong, to strengthen bones, joint and muscles, ward off injury and debilitating conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis.

Endurance Cardio

1-2 times / week, do a longer, less intense cardio session to keep the endurance side of your heart in good shape. This is an important base for every body.  It's also incredibly good for your mind and stress levels, to have a light intensity, easy sweat focusing on sustainability.

Stretching

Pros are divided here. You have to find someone you trust, and find what works best for you. Obsessively stretching a muscle that feels "tight" is not necessarily the best move.  If your body feels really imbalanced, consider working with a professional or at least booking in once for a program design that will help you to tackle some of your imbalances. You might have some muscles not firing properly, and then others being inhibited because of this.  Imbalances over time can lead to acute OR chronic injury, leading to pain... leading to a less favourable relationship with exercise all around.  So take your anatomical balance seriously. I can't, here, comment on exactly what kind of stretching you should or should not be doing, but most people need some whether it be dynamic (movement-based stretching) or static (holds).

Minute Movement and Posture Work

Elements of pilates or smaller, rehabilitative movements should be included in almost everybody's exercise routine to again focus on rebalancing one's anatomy. Your strength routine should include work on the glutes, core and midback to counter our smartphone-addicted and desk-job culture.  We HAVE to use our workouts to combat the positions we find ourselves in repeatedly day in and day out, otherwise we risk imbalances leading to dramatic discomfort.

Isometric AND Dynamic Movement

Every good program will include isometric exercises.  Isometric exercises are ones in which you exert strength and hold a position.  The plank, for instance, is the most popular one. Although we use many plank variations in our training, we also add isometric holds in other exercises.  I love isometrics particularly because they strengthen the mind-body connection.  Holding a contraction improves proprioception or your brain's ability to conceptualize the work it's doing, "body sense", in the specific area you are working.  On top of this (and also BECAUSE of this) you can complete more effective work.  Isometric movement also improves cardiovascular function, allows you to train your breathing while holding exertion, and is very beneficial for the joints.

Dynamic movement includes a broad ROM (range of motion) and helps to improve mobility.  I believe a good exercise program will include both angles of movement, isometric and dynamic.  The more ways in which you can train your body to move and exert, the better. Dynamic exercise MUST execute great form and must consider both the LEVEL and the IMBALANCES of an individual.  There are 5 million exercises on Instagram, but which ones are too fancy and lack efficiency for you specifically? It can be hard to know.  It's good to build from the classics, note any pain or discomfort in basic compound movements, and use these results as a guide for what more complicated movements should come next.  Again, cookie cutter workouts can be okay to get you moving at first, but unless you have a lot of experience, be careful here.  You don't want to further wedge an imbalance and risk chronic pain or injury.

Multi Planes of Movement

This goes along with dynamic movement. Make sure that you are not always moving frontwards and backwards in a sagittal plane of motion!  A lot of exercises (running, cycling, walking, forward or drop lunges, squats) have you moving in the same directions all the time.  Add in some lateral lunges, squat shuffles, lateral jumps, different angled rows, chest presses and push-ups, AND rotational exercises, for example, to prevent getting stuck and again, creating imbalances that will lead to anatomical dysfunction.

I hope I'm not forgetting anything. This is a bit of a complicated post, but a good place to start.  Most of these facets can be fit into one great workout, and we at PT certainly follow this blueprint, aiming to have our clients functioning most efficiently from many different angles. That said, you can compose your workouts this way yourself.  There are so many resources out there these days. 

*To sum up, and this applies to all levels and its intensity can vary*:

Add some lengthier, easier cardio sessions (a bike ride, long walk, easy run, etc.)  Add some circuit training or interval components.  In your strength routine itself, include some mobility and postural work, isometrics, dynamic movements, multidirectional exercises AND classic, compound moves.  And, above all, do try to learn proper breathing, patience, focus and efficient form.  I know it sounds like a lot, but start somewhere and get practicing. It can mean a world of difference for getting in and STAYING in your best shape.

Setting Boundaries to Reach your Goals, an Exercise Itself

It's not easy to say no things. If you value the people in your life and you want to give them the best of yourself, you find yourself often doing too much and sometimes squashing your own habits and or goals in the process. There is no end point to this exercise, it is an ongoing practice with hills and valleys, just like anything else. 

Some of the most balanced people I know - those who handle stress very well and are organized and successful - practice this boundary-setting exercise without apologies.  I admire them.  It requires repetition to get it right, and can take a bit of discomfort until the people around you begin to accept and even respect it. 

It's important to be able to look in front of you and decide what you want the next week or the few next weeks to look like, to know that a million other things might pop up, and to plan how you might handle those things in advance. If you just fly by the seat of your pants at all times, it's easy to let months go by without any real focus and before you know it, all the small slips will be composing a big picture that you no longer internally identify with. 

If you understand that you're happier when you feel in control, when you have the time that you need in order to strengthen the things important to you (health, work, relationships?), it's vital to plan ahead of time for how you might handle those unexpected situations, and at all costs, make a commitment to yourself.

The work that ALL trainers do, on top of composing customized plans, offering accountability and guiding you along your nutritional journey, is to help you to plan for the unexpected and to stay true to your commitment to your health which, at the end of the day, is your jumping off point for all other things you do in your life.  When I mention health I don't just mean an illness-free condition, but also your hormonal stability, mental clarity, energy levels, happiness streams, stress management, sleeping habits and navigating along social situations in a fulfilling and constructive way.

I've lost my balance as many times as anyone else while trying to juggle conflicting balls in the air in order to make everyone (including myself and natural fluctuating moods) happy.  But you can't juggle from a place where you lack wellness, and you can't have wellness without having a commitment and a plan. So when it comes to boundary-setting, that is where you start. The commitment, and the plan.

If you begin to feel off-kilter, you absolutely must, guilt-free, be able to decline and withdraw in order to create the space you need to build your strength and endure a balance that gets you to your best self. From there, those who need you will be grateful that you did. 

Those who respect you will support you. And just in case you need a starting point, know that this girl over here behind her laptop sure supports you.  As usual, if you have any questions, drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

Carbs & Fat Loss

It's confusing, isn't it?  Cut carbs to lose fat. Just enough, not too many, and eat the right kinds. In the right balance. But as many vegetables as you can, and only a certain amount of fruit. But don't starve, because you'll spike your stress hormones which will lead to fat gain.  So, how do you find what's best for you?

I'm afraid the answer IS complicated, and it depends on the individual. That said, when I start looking at a client's nutrition and start making changes to get their results moving, these are some of the things that I adjust.  So, this can be a good place for you to start, as well.

Restrict processed foods. Duh. At this point, if you've ever read my blog before, you know this.

For breakfast, pick a protein, a little healthy fat, THEN add a splash of carbohydrate. I like 2 eggs, a slice of avocado, some spinach maybe, and half a banana OR a half cup of berries (or small handful of dried fruit).  If you are having oats / cereal, AND fruit, AND flavoured yogurt, you are going to be having sugar cravings ALL day and your dinner will lead you into crunchy, starchy snack-attacks into the evening.  Get that blood sugar balanced from the beginning. 

Every 3-4 hours or so, have a balanced snack. 

When choosing the carbs in your lunches and dinners, load up the vegetables.  Starchier vegetables like sweet potato and squash are sufficient, you don't also need bread or pasta (in fact, if fat loss is a goal, keep all DOUGH-like carbs as a once-weekly indulgence). When adding starchier vegetables, be sure the portion is smaller than the size of your fist.

Do not CUT CARBS altogether.  Although the amount that you can cut depends strictly on the individual, you need them. Your body needs them, your brain needs them. Not only that, but if you have had an emotional connection to food in the past and / or experience stress, you will be messing with your hormones too much that it can really work against you. You do not want to spike the stress hormone cortisol, leading to fat gain, and you do not want to lead to that empty, hungry feeling that will cause you to binge. 

If you are cutting carbs down, you should feel satiated and be comfortable. You should still include them without feeling that they are the thing making you feel overfat. This is an unhealthy relationship with carbs AND food, altogether, and you are probably ready to work with a professional to decipher what approach is best for you.  Everybody has a way to get to their goals swiftly and comfortably, it's a matter of finding the right balance for the individual.

We want you to succeed. We want you to feel your best, and to be at your healthiest and happiest body composition. Please don't hesitate to ask us your questions, and we'd be happy to help you fine-tune your individualized approach. 

 

 

Sitting, Shallow Breathing and Your Posture

Your posture can entirely change how you look AND how you feel.  I don't know a soul who doesn't want to look and feel his / her best, so this is an important topic to touch on.  There are many complex articles on posture, so I've tried to simplify a few tips for accessibility to get people practicing these habits regularly.

Do you sit most of the day? Yeah, many of us do.  Even as a trainer, I am smushed (good word, right?) in the seat of my car getting from place to place for at least half of the days, sitting for at least a couple of hours a day doing desk work, and so even my posture can suffer despite working to counter it in my bodywork.  If you add in shallow breathing (using the shoulders and neck muscles over the diaphragm) that is symptomatic of always rushing, it can be a recipe for an anatomical catastrophe.  This is an example of where a few mind tricks and some awareness can dramatically change our bodies.

Diaphragmatic breathing, breathing in which you really focus on expanding and emptying the lungs (by contracting the diaphragm to make space for the lungs), lifting the ribcage rather than the shoulders, reduces stress hormones and relieves tension from the neck and shoulders.  In order to get a feel for this, begin first lying on your back, with your shoulders pulled away from your ears and your knees bent.  Place one hand on your heart, and one on your diaphragm (just below the ribcage in the middle of your trunk). You want to feel a deep rise and fall here as you breathe, and to keep the shoulders still. Once comfortable with this, you can easily tap into it sitting or standing as well. Just as this breathing will help correct posture on its own, poor posture can inhibit proper breathing. So the two must be considered as a unit.

I know everybody says this, but I'm going to say it again:  Try to get up and walk around as often as you can throughout the day. The lungs and the heart want to work together to get oxygen pumping through your blood to all areas of your body.  Be cognizant of placing weight into your whole foot when you stand, letting your ribcage expand and fall when you breathe (this will lend itself to an active core all on its own) and keeping your shoulders down, and stacked over the pelvis.  

* have your body weight pressing evenly into your feet, including the heels

* use diaphragmatic breathing

* keep the shoulders relaxed, and stacked over the pelvis

Having a program to counter rounded seated posture, as well as one that benefits your neurological system and circulatory system is imperative for all human beings these days.  But at the very least, bear these pointers in mind and I guarantee you by the end of day one, you will feel better and healthier already.

Joga's MVP Week with Jana Webb

Last week I was invited to join Joga House's soft opening week by Naturally Nora's Nora DeBora.  Nora is working on Joga's nutritional component, and is a Joga coach herself.  

The Joga House is a new facility in Yorkville, Toronto, which will give a home to a full schedule of classes using its incredibly unique training method.  I've been familiar with Joga and its founder, Jana Webb, for many years now.  She is well known in the fitness / wellness community for her ability to fine tune and benefit professional athletes' performance with elements of yoga (among other approaches). I had done Joga once before, many years ago, while traveling in Europe and looking for a quick DVD to keep me in check and on a schedule while being unattached to any facilities. The Joga I did then, however, and the Joga I experienced last week in class in the new facility, were entirely different.  Our knowledge of biomechanics is changing, and what I felt and heard in the class were the most cutting edge and current understandings for an efficient and balancing practice.

Jana Webb is now becoming more broadly known being featured on the Real Housewives of Toronto (on Slice), yet I have to say that her professionalism and her knowledge of her craft is some of the highest I've come across in the industry of bodywork and athletics. I've tuned into the show weekly because it's refreshing to see such a combination, but the constructiveness of the workout is what inspired me to share this.

Attending the class at Joga House last week, I expected a beautiful facility and a great workout.  It was both, of course, but I was most impressed to experience the perfect combination of neurokinetic understanding, pilates and yoga.  Because too much of one thing can inhibit a well-rounded progress, Joga actually applies knowledge of the endocrine system, the neurological system and intertwines this with the most current application of balanced anatomy and physiology. What I experienced was a process of top tier biomechanical accuracy.  If this is a little bit hard to follow, the workout made me feel the following things:

Renewed and regenerated on a cellular level

Energized

Wound and tightened in

STRONG

Relaxed

Activated

Balanced

Mentally AND physically stimulated

100% inspired.

The more we learn, the better we move. The cues and the teachings amid this challenging workout expanded me in the right ways, and wound me in in the right ways.  Jana had to keep telling me to tuck my ribs in, for instance, but also used many different cues to be able to communicate with many different kinds of people. What we were left with was a constructive flow, and a ton of personal progress.

On top of the Joga workouts themselves, here is what Nora has to say about the nutritional component that will soon be applied:

"We provide dietary solutions that are effectively tailored to people's highly individualized biomechanical needs.  We believe the body has a superior capacity to regulate and heal itself, once it's given the right raw materials to work with.  Our goal is the fine tune your nutrition to optimize your genetic potential and suppress your genetic weakness."

ON POINT.

If you're looking for a step up in terms of your connection with your body, scientific support, balance and control in your workouts, I would definitely check out the new space and a class.  And if you are, like me, working in the industry and always looking for more education and a comprehensive approach to your teachings, the certification is a great option as well.

 

 

Jana and me, relaxed but regenerated after an early morning Joga class during the MVP week.

Jana and me, relaxed but regenerated after an early morning Joga class during the MVP week.

Nora DeBora of Naturally Nora

Nora DeBora of Naturally Nora

"I'm Finally Engaged!" May Scooped up her Core.

My client May has been doing many different workouts for years.  She's a strong one - she doesn't fatigue easily, and she can be pushed pretty hard.

Although she's worked her way through some plank variations and core exercises, May was having trouble understanding what all of our (her instructors') cues meant, and was having trouble feeling her intrinsic core engage.

Yesterday, although I had a ton of cardio-focused moves combined with heavier strength moves planned for her, we ended up getting swept away with determination toward her visualization techniques, to help her contract her core with her brain and tweaking to the bodywork. A lot of our focus was spent on using her diaphragm, and learning to breathe properly during our work, and otherwise. 

The result was pretty amazing, as May felt her intrinsic core finally, and her form in her other exercises such as lunge, squat and row variations changed dramatically.  Once you learn to engage your core, your serratus participates better. The glutes participate better.  Alignment falls into place, and functional anatomy hits a high note.  Do you know what that feels like? It feels like pain free, satisfying success.

One of the things that I love the most about personal training is the conversation between the trainer and the client, and how that strengthens the conversation between the client and his/her body.  Different people respond to different cues or analogies, allowing them to better internalize the points on form, which entirely changes the way moves are physically executed. It is my job as a trainer to come up with creative visualization techniques and analogies to hit the client right in the gut (pun intended) of their understanding.

Here's what May had to say for us yesterday:

“I’m finally engaged! It was a revelation - I had been working out for years, but with help from Jessica’s cues I was able to fully understand what engaging my core meant!”

We have some wonderful, progressive work ahead of us.  Great movement and two happy kids.

Get More Out of Your Workouts

Whether you have not yet started working out, are fresh out of the gates or a longtime veteran, here are a few tips to consider to get the most out of the time and effort you are putting into your fitness.

Although it can benefit and challenge heart rate to move quickly from one exercise to the next, move diligently and thoroughly in each exercise itself.  Whether it is an isometric exercise (one in which you are holding a contraction still and not moving through a full range of motion) or a concentric or eccentric contraction, focus on the muscle or muscle group that you wish to load. With your brain in this focus, you can load and challenge the appropriate muscle and you can neutralize the other players who try to help you to compensate, for a more direct approach, and therefore better results.

Do not ignore the eccentric contraction. This is typically the lengthening or lowering phase of an exercise.  For example, when you are lowering in a squat, think about working one step ahead of gravity rather than letting it pull you. Engage your glutes, quads, hamstrings and core to fight the pull of gravity and to lower with control.  Think about equal weight in both of your heels.

Program design is important.  The order of exercises and the way that they're grouped or layered can make all the difference in the world when it comes to results. Cookie cutter plans from apps or magazines can yield great results with consistency, but don't be afraid to customize them to suit you better so that you are working on your individual strengths and weaknesses and feeling a good burn in the areas that you need to for your goals.  Every single body has unique strengths and weaknesses, and you need to address them in your workouts to fine-tune and sustain your results.

Use your whole body.  Even when you're training smaller muscles like delts and triceps (shoulders and back of the arms) you should hold a strong position with your core, glutes, quads and hamstrings engaged. Your stance is very important! You need your major players to be strong and not only when they're being called upon concentrically in exercises like rows and squats.  You get results significantly faster when your stance is on point, muscles contributing toward stabilization and control with the work of your mental focus.

Nutrition. If you want to get more out of your workouts, you simply have to learn how to eat well... FOR LIFE.  That means you need to learn what to do when you're faced with birthdays, restaurants, awkward travel schedules, holidays, patio days... all of the many life things that are not going to slow down just because you have some changes you want to make.  You have to adapt. You have to learn how to eyeball, learn to pay attention to how you feel, learn to balance your meals adequately to keep moving in the right direction. You most certainly canNOT out-train a bad diet. Get your training and your nutrition on the same page with one another for a harmonious and quick progression toward the results you want.

If you need us, we're here.

 

Strength Is

Strength is authenticity.

Strength is not avoiding discomfort.

Strength is lifting your chin and deciding upon intrinsic confidence. 

Strength is not flexing a muscle.

Strength is training to improve weakness, to recalibrate, to ripen and energize.

Strength is not #beastmode or #teamnodaysoff.

Strength is rest, pushing "urgencies" away from your membrane of space, patience. Trusting time.

Strength is not spinning like a hyperactive top, juggling in a panic.

Strength is reflection, earnestness, self exploration.

Strength is not denial.

Strength is facing hurtful things in the past, feeling the difficulties, accepting them and moving through them. Letting them move through you.

Strength is not psychologically running away, layering and layering distractions, pretending to be strong and untouched.

Strength is listening and helping others. Strength is ALSO allowing yourself to be helped.

Strength is not always feeling the need to be the one to solve, talk, or guide. Listen.

Strength is the deconstruction phase - taking things apart, in order to rebuild. Analysis, patience and perseverance. Just like in the building of muscles themselves. 

Strength is NOT destruction, punishment through exercise, deprivation or overtraining by way of negative self-talk, threats-to-self or self-loathing. 

STRENGTH IS LOVING YOURSELF composed of bright lights AND dark corners of tricky times.

STRENGTH IS LOVING OTHERS without limit, without outline. Love like watching an ink blot, and accepting whatever borders it creates.

 

Pick it up, put it down, turn it inside out, feel it all. And watch how you lift yourself and others.

We're not here long, we take only our memories with us when we go.
 

I used a photo of Tavira because of its dark corners and bright lights, and I had many missions of discovery here.  

I used a photo of Tavira because of its dark corners and bright lights, and I had many missions of discovery here.

 

Navigating Your Cravings

Cravings hit. Much of my writing is geared toward coaching to invest in your meals and wellness patterns in order to LIMIT and restrict cravings.  But they still can happen occasionally.

Lack of sleep, sex, hydration, sunlight & fresh air,  and vitamins seem to be the top triggers. ALL of these things affect hormones, and hormones can affect cravings.

Winter boredom certainly doesn’t help!

When cravings hit, it’s best to first consider what you might be missing. Scan your last few days in your mind and make sure you’ve gotten enough healthy fats, protein, greens and other colours (micronutrients).  Enough sturdy complex carbs, if need be.

And then check in on the other qualities of wellness. Sleep, sex (solo counts too!), sunlight (or vitamin D), exercise, fresh air, FUN…? Maybe you need to balance out, somehow. I’ll leave that up to you.

But now let’s deal with the immediate. The cravings are here! Now what?!

Often times you can fix them up with a meal itself. A nice salty salmon and big salad with so many flavours and textures – so filling that you can’t possibly imagine anything bigger or better. Balance your flavours. But if the meal itself is not cutting it, let’s chat options for the extras.

Some non-detrimental salty snacks:

Salted rice crackers and hummus

Rice cake and avocado with sea salt

A dill pickle

Seaweed snacks

Homemade sweet potato fries

Baked Tortilla chips or Snapea Crisps (a portion!)

Rice cake and tuna or turkey with avocado

 

Some non-detrimental sweet snacks:

2 squares of dark chocolate (I love raspberry or mint)

Homemade muesli consisting of a small handful each of large flake oats, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds or walnuts and some unsweetened almond milk

A handful of dried cranberries on their own

Tea and a tsp of raw honey

A slice of white bean toast and a tsp each of natural nut better and raw honey

Chia pudding

Vanilla or chocolate protein shake frothed up with half a frozen banana and almond milk

A small bowl of hot oatmeal with a little maple syrup, honey or blueberries and a small amount of crushed walnuts or other kind of healthy fat

An apple with cinnamon and a tablespoon of almond butter

 

I try to keep things in the house that are versatile and that can satisfy almost any craving without being detrimental toward my health or energy.  So there’s always something I can reach for without having to reach for takeout. It does happen, but we all have weeks where we need to be more stringent, and in these cases it’s good to have an “emergency craving solution” plan in place just in case!

When none of these will cut it, have a little bit of what you’re craving and then move on. Try to think about something else. Busy yourself with a hobby, a walk, a workout or getting a good night’s sleep.

Listen to your body, pay attention to your lifestyle balance, and no matter what, always feed yourself with self respect and diligence whether you’re indulging or not.  Do not eat angrily and treat your body like a trash can.  It’s a complex and amazing machine, and it’s good to you more times than not! Treat it back with care.