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.

 

Easy Peasy Protein Pancakes

I probably should have somehow made the title about how delicious they are.

According to social media, Pancake Tuesday is a thing! I missed the memo, but I saw all the posts yesterday. Shoutout in particular to former PT2 trainer Satch and current PT2 trainer Rachel who both posted some killer pancake photos yesterday!

And although I didn't look into any recipes, I woke up early this morning (4:45 am!) and had some time to kill so I spontaneously tried my own.

I used:

2 scoops of Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Proteins + powder

2 eggs

1/3 cup large flake oats

1 cup (approx) unsweetened Almond Milk (I like Earth's Own

1 tsp coconut oil for cooking

1 tsp pure maple syrup drizzled over two pancakes

Cinnamon sprinkled over

I blended all the ingredients, heated a pan on medium and flipped pancakes when the top began to bubble a bit. They're so ridiculously easy and delicious, I have no idea why I didn't make them sooner. 

This recipe yields 8 pancakes (which means you have a few days of breakfasts whipped up).

Nutritional Information per serving of 2 pancakes:

128 cal

4.5g Fat

14.5g Protein

8g Carbs

 

Workout Style: Compromising Effectiveness for Creativity

It's easy to get a bit lost these days with regards to what we feel we should be doing in the gym. Instagram, for one huge example, has millions of accounts featuring exciting and creative new workout moves. 

So, I need to write about this a little bit today to keep us all on track with our own goals. 

As with lifestyle itself, there is a balance to the inspiration you lap up.  There are some incredibly daring and impressive exercises to be seen on social media platforms that help us all to get new ideas, try new things, which is of course very important in the interest of keeping your body challenged, keeping us interested and busting plateaus.  Some accounts are experts doing their most difficult and daring moves, trying to impress with numbers or creativity.  Sometimes fancy exercises are really effective. Sometimes, however, they compromise effectiveness completely, so you do have to be careful.  Things are not ALWAYS as good as they look! And, of course, you must consider injuries.  Don't forget, if you do too much of something or do it incorrectly, an injury is the fastest way to lose what you've accomplished and prevent getting to your goals. "Risk vs. Benefit" is an important concept to respect in the world of training. 

Sometimes my clients will tag me in moves that look really fun, look like they target all the right things, but are in fact completely inappropriate for that particular person's anatomical structure or their goals. 

I think having our "feeds" flooded is doing more good than bad.  It pumps up our motivation, jogs creativity and ultimately is getting a ton of people more focused on fitting exercise and nutritional direction into their days.  But do remember, some of the classic exercises are classics because they work.  Form is vital, stability leads to optimal muscle recruitment which leads to results, and harder is quite frankly NOT always better.

Workouts are not about slamming you to the ground, making you throw up or burning an "epic" amount of calories. They are about getting strong, fast, efficient and fit.  Get inspired, but remain diligent and smart in your training. Most of all, listen to your body.  If you feel like you're taking shortcuts or missing what you're supposed to feel, you're probably doing something incorrectly. 

 

My Favourite Healthy Comfort Foods

I can be lazy in the winter about following recipes, so I usually just whip up what is easy and satisfying, especially during long and packed days. You with me on this? When there's time, sure, I love a beautiful roast with roasted vegetables.  Or to go grab all the unique ingredients for a killer slow cooker recipe. But if I want to stay off my Uber Eats app, I need some quick alternatives.

This post is specifically to disclose what I whip up when I want something hot, mushy and EASY that still delivers my body what it needs.

Brown rice pasta with protein and vegetables, an olive oil based sauce

Shepherd's pie made with sweet potato and extra vegetables

A baked sweet potato topped with hot chicken or salmon, and steamed vegetables (I tossed pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries on this once and it was like a thanksgiving dinner!)

Vegetable and Egg Fritata, mmm.

Healthy chicken fingers, baked sweet potato fries from scratch - (I used a little bit of egg and panko crumbs on slices of chicken, baked. Simple!) With steamed vegetables.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts - I usually opt for a little goat cheese, roasted red peppers and broccoli

Homemade soups - Choose either cauliflower or broccoli, add a potato or two, an onion, some garlic, salt and pepper, and stock. Cook, blend. DELICIOUS.

Stirfries - my fave is shrimp, vegetables and either rice vermicelli, shirataki noodles or no noodles at all. Tossed in a wok with a bit of sesame oil, and either tamari and peanut butter or a little oyster sauce and teriyaki.

Also, never underestimate the power of those lovely healthy fats from nice fish filets in the winter. They'll warm you right up.  In my opinion, big bowls of greens such as arugula or massaged kale never feel out of style or out of season.

 

Do you have anything to add? This list is about as lazy as the meals are themselves.  But hey, it's winter and that's the whole point, right?  Remember you can make these meals vegetarian by adding legumes like chickpeas and lentil, organic tempeh, quinoa, spirulina and other clean vegetarian proteins.
And now it's most definitely time to eat. :)

 

See? Just like Thanksgiving. Without all the high calorie chaos.

See? Just like Thanksgiving. Without all the high calorie chaos.

A simple shrimp and zucchini stirfry, a little peanut butter and tamari.

A simple shrimp and zucchini stirfry, a little peanut butter and tamari.

The shiratki noodle stirfry.

The shiratki noodle stirfry.

Brown rice pasta with lean ground beef for when you need a boost of iron.

Brown rice pasta with lean ground beef for when you need a boost of iron.

The Real Way to Overcome Obstacles

When I talk about obstacles, I'm not talking about people who sabotage, time management, your gym's hours or the people who bring cakes into the office.  I'm talking about the obstacles that are within you, that have perhaps kept you from really accomplishing your goals. Maybe for years!

Having felt a bit held back and a bit off, myself, I had to get really honest with myself about my obstacles.  It wasn't easy.  One part of this actually took me more than a decade.  You have to identify the psychological reason that it feels like a hurdle. Why does it feel insurmountable? And again, I'm not talking about technicalities. But from within you, where the real action happens, why have you kept taking turns while en route to that accomplishment?

Answering the WHY is the real trick.  I feel that in order to prove my point, I have to give a personal example.  Someone the other day told me that I'm very independent.  I sort of stopped to think.  I wondered why this struck me, and why then I had stood in my own way in some regards.  In many ways, yes. I run my own business, I travel alone.  In other ways, I am quite dependent.  I rely consistently on communication and interaction with my clients, friends and family.  I crave company much of the time. However, this comment had me reflect on "independence" and I realized that sometimes what I do in fact do is alienate myself, tuck myself away, when I'm finally thriving. And this has nothing to do with dependence or independence, but more so with avoidance.  I now understand it as an obstacle, I understand where it comes from, but blaming something in our pasts does nothing to help accept, take ownership and thus overcome.  So, this is my WHY. And then the difficult next question can be the HOW.

I want you to now think about your WHY. And then move onto your HOW.  How were you deflecting from your own stride toward that accomplishment? One person shared that if she makes one unhealthy move, she'd focus so much on that negative that she failed to see all the positive steps she'd taken. In this case, though we don't know her WHY, her HOW was settling into diversion and then discouragement.  That halted her, because it would steer her right off track, when she allowed herself to feel defeated while trying to make change.

Here is the answer, all.  It can be difficult to answer these questions to yourself honestly, it can take years.  I'm hoping that by presenting this idea, it might save you some time.

If you can press your shoulders down, lift your chest and chin, engage your core, and strongly answer your WHY and your HOW, you are ready to defeat your obstacles.  And from there, if you want a bit of support and guidance, you are in the best position to benefit from help.

This can be your year. Not just your year, but your moment where you turn this fogginess or grime or whatever it is slowing you down on its head. 

The psychology of making positive change is dense, but it is a thing my clients and I discuss most often. It's complex, but incredibly applicable and vital.  Give it some thought, and hopefully it helps propel you toward your best life.

Getting honest with yourself helps you to wrestle with your dark, and step over to your bright side and your best life.

Getting honest with yourself helps you to wrestle with your dark, and step over to your bright side and your best life.

Maybe It's Time to Consider A Meal Delivery Service

If you are investing time and money (and let's be real, time IS money) into your workouts, you have to round it out with solid nutrition.  

The cost of groceries is rising, and if we're not organized, some weeks that food will just go to waste anyway.  How many salad greens have you tossed this year at $5 / container? How many times have you said "F*#% it, I'm just ordering in tonight" or grabbed your dinner on the way home because you can't be bother to go grab all the minor ingredients you need to whip up a decent meal?

There are times in our lives when we need to just make the investment in a boost. Balanced, nutritious meals concocted by an expert who knows just how to make the things you both crave AND need. I've been a longtime fan of FitOrganix for the quality AND deliciousness of their meals. This is not paid endorsement, I asked them permission to share about them again because I think there are so many of us who can find this service, but this brand in particular, incredibly useful at times like these.  As you'll see from the food below, it's tasty & healthy food that leaves no room for excess cravings. But even that aside, I adore how personable they are in their business dealings.  You can write to them with your specifics wants and needs, and you will establish a relationship with one of the best helping hands you've received when it comes to your health. 

You can pick up the service for short or long term. I'll definitely be recruiting their help a few times over the course of this year so that I can really remain focused and reap the benefits of being highly fueled. A few weeks in which I save that grocery and cooking time can make a world of difference in what you're able to accomplish. And, my body will thank me. 

Here are some of the meals I indulged in last week, leading to an energy peaked & health conscious weekend:

 

An extra treat for a relaxing bath, for an active body

An extra treat for a relaxing bath, for an active body

Breakfast cookie deliciously disguising nutrient-rich vegetablesi

Breakfast cookie deliciously disguising nutrient-rich vegetablesi

Little protein packed snack!

Little protein packed snack!

Mmm.

Mmm.

Rice with kale, chickpeas, beets and salmon

Rice with kale, chickpeas, beets and salmon

Chicken fingers, eggplant "fingers" and steamed broccoli

Chicken fingers, eggplant "fingers" and steamed broccoli

The Zero Calorie Noodle?

Perhaps you've heard of shirataki noodles (or yam noodles) or have seen them in the grocery store. Yup, it's not a lie, they are calorie-free.  Which means, you have a nutritious meal of protein, vegetables (remember, vegetables are still carbs) and healthy fats without worrying about overloading the starch.  But, you can still have the filling satiation of a carb-laden meal during winter months.

Let's be real, we all want those cozy hot meals when it's cold outside!

Shirataki noodles can be found wet or dry, more often wet in your grocery store's tofu section. Health food stores might be a better bet for sourcing the product. They are made from the root of an Asian plant called Konjac, which has been referred to as the elephant yam. Many now simply call them yam noodles. 

You can use them anywhere you use regular noodles!  So here's what I did with mine, yesterday:

You know I'm lazy about posting recipes because I prefer to freestyle in the kitchen after knowing some very basic cooking tips. 

I heated 1 tbsp of sesame oil in a wok, then tossed in about 1 clove of chopped garlic. Once that warmed, I tossed in a whole bag of jumbo shrimp to cook. While that cooked, I chopped some fresh spinach, and I opened the bag of shirataki noodles and rinsed (and double rinsed) and drained them. I tossed in the cooked spinach, and once it glowed a richer green I threw in the noodles.  I used a couple tablespoons each of teriyaki and oyster sauce, and added another tbsp of sesame oil while I heated and mixed it all together (turning up the heat).

Bam. Too easy, right? We don't have to make our meals so complicated. And it was delicious, it tasted like demonic takeout but much easier on the bod.

Please feel free to share your recipes with me to feature on the blog so that this can become a helpful platform for ALL of us to get through the winter without eating ourselves into a cave of lethargy.

 

yam noodles

Before the January Freak Out...

As you can imagine, January is my biggest month for calming down my participants. It is when clients roll in to their sessions at their most sluggish, their most discouraged, and we have the most internal work to do to get them feeling back on top of their lifestyle habits.  They feel so far gone, and don't even know how it happened.

So, let's plan ahead! I'll tell you first how it happens.  One workout dropped here, another one there. One cookie here, one sausage roll there. Before you know it, your chemistry is changing. Your body feels too worn out to train, and your cravings are starting to throb and swell.  Much like your body.  I'm sorry for being so direct, but this is what happens. 

December is the month that you should organize and compartmentalize the most.  It's suddenly cold, and there are many parties, and everyone is comforting themselves and escaping by way of snack and drinks.  It's okay, to a degree, but if you lose your self control in it, it's certainly not worth it. The scramble you'll have to experience afterward is stressful, even when you think it won't be.  And I'm not even talking about how you look, because gaining 5lbs of body fat won't really make a difference to anyone else. But when you're off track in your routine and lifestyle, and you start to feel lethargic and foggy, it causes stress. THAT is what you want to avoid. Because being unhappy with yourself in January is just terrible planning. You want to feel like you're speeding after something great during that month, gaining ground, making your own daylight.  You don't want to be stuck in the dark and the cold and feeling like you're set back many months. And let me tell you, gaining even 5lbs of body fat can snowball out of control pretty quickly because of what it can do to your energy and to your cravings. It's not worth the gamble.

At your parties, plan a drink limit. Have one or two to participate if you'd like, to get loose and laugh, but keep the next morning in mind. Remember that if you wake up hungover, you are going to want to eat garbage all day long and be exhausted and not want to think about socializing for a couple days. Pick your battles. You can't go all in at every event without feeling like you've been steam rolled come the end of the month!

Have a snack before you go out.  An apple with a tablespoon of almond butter and cinnamon is a good go-to for me. It stabilizes blood sugar and makes the fried or starchy snacks less appealing.

Maybe you're crunched for time and your regular workouts won't make the cut. That's okay. But do NOT get out of the habit.  You can have shorter bursts, but breaking a sweat most days and keeping your main muscle groups strong (the postural players - glutes, core, mid to upper back) will help keep you stable, consistent and in-routine enough to bounce back quickly after the holidays. Hang onto your consistency for dear life, even if the length of your sessions take a hit.

Encourage your co-workers and your family to limit the baked goods and fat-laden snacks this year. Do you know a soul who has NEVER said that they care about their health or how they feel? It matters to almost everyone.  I haven't heard anyone say "I'm so excited that my office is filled with baked goods this time of year" because usually it encourages behaviour that makes people FEEL worse.  Yet everyone continues to bake and crowd the offices with these energy-zapping foods! Have a chat with your entourage.  Ask them, do you guys want to try to feel a little better this year? Let's offer cleaner alternatives that are still delicious but DELIVER energy rather than zap it. There are a million recipes online for healthier snacks - protein balls, clean cookies, homemade protein bars, black bean brownies, hummus and vegetable platters... A little effort here can go a long way. Set the stage for less temptation.

You are your life manager.  Take responsibility for how you are directing your habits and how you are moving into next year. Attaining balance is an important life skill. Challenge yourself to indulge a little but to keep the big picture in mind and not to be self-destructive in your habits.  You should be able to celebrate without throwing your self-care out the window.  We all have our moments, but have a conversation with yourself about it this year. Avoid that January panic. 

That said, for those who have already fallen a bit off track... I'll be here for you in January and after every other celebratory event we have next year. Broken record Jessica. :)

*Always, always get back on the horse.*

Invest in balance and nutrition amid the mania, and you'll bounce back far more easily come January.

Invest in balance and nutrition amid the mania, and you'll bounce back far more easily come January.

Prioritizing for Success

There’s one thing I repeat over and over in my work: “In order to get it, you have to want it.” Your personal trainer / coach can help you talk yourself out of bad decisions, we can make suggestions you hadn’t thought of, we can recommend tools for planning and tracking meals, we can remind you why it’s important, and most obviously plan the workouts and alter your form significantly so that you benefit the most from the work you put in.

But if between your meetings with your trainer you’re sitting around more passively, feeling drained and dragged by your habits rather than in the lead of them, you might not be able to accomplish what you set out to do.

In adulthood, things really can get tricky. It’s funny, actually, how overwhelming things can be even when it’s just a breeding frenzy of small details to manage. Because life can get really overwhelming, it’s important to compartmentalize and prioritize.

If you know that getting to your best self is going to help you master all other tasks and get you living more efficiently and more happily sooner, then you really need to work to accomplish that. It is an investment. Life doesn’t have a pause button, but sometimes you might need to pause elements of it or put them on the back burner in order to highlight and charge forward on something else. And in order to do this, you have to have that clarity and to have made that decision that this is something that you really want. You want to stop struggling with your body and your fatigue, you want to feel fit and healthy every day and to get more done, and be happier as you do it. Right?

Those who support you will support you. And in my opinion, support is the most important feature to recognize in those around you. Keep those who do around, and always provide the same and respect their needs and space when they have something major to focus on for themselves.

You can make this change. It starts with a decision, then a bit of a priority shuffle. We’ll be here when you’re ready to do the rest. Feeling healthy and strong is an unparalleled feeling, and you deserve it.

My Visit with Tara Campbell, Naturopath

I have a client who, throughout my time training her, has dramatically changed her nutritional profile, her body and frankly, the entire scope of her health. I had to ask her how she had found out such specific details about what foods are best and not so great for her, and how she experienced this dramatic change in her well-being. I had visited a naturopath before in the past, and I know my fair share of stabilizing hormones through natural methods, but after her rave reviews about Tara, I had to experience this next level of health care for myself. Having burnt out my adrenals last year, and also having gotten off the pill around the same time, I was feeling less than spectacular. I was stuck in a cyclic lifestyle pattern of feeling completely depleted and looking for gusto and energy in all the wrong places. I still worked out, I still ate relatively well, I still loved my job and still had those days where I was bouncing off the walls naturally. But in the big picture, I was really feeling subpar. Dramatically low.

Although I could feel it shifting for the better in the second half of this year, I wanted to visit Tara, who had provided my client with such great insights into her own health and wellness. I wanted to learn more about what was going on inside my body.

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Before going on vacation for two weeks, I had blood drawn and Tara emailed me while I was away to tell me my results had come in. Upon return, once work was underway again and I felt mostly organized, I popped in for a consultation to discuss my results, and create a bit of a blueprint for my health moving forward.

Although I was already pretty low on the foods that I'm intolerant to, it was great to finally find out and have a clearer plank of how to steer myself around certain foods. On top of discussing the nutritional component, Tara and I discussed my adrenals and my hormones. We took a test and found everything to be right where it should be, again, since I had done some shuffling around of things on my own in the past month to help things normalize a bit faster. There is no doubt, though, when I was feeling at my worst that this test would have shown otherwise. The best part about meeting with her was feeling the support and the focus of a professional helping to secure my own treatment and self care. We outlined some goals through Tara's rapport-oriented approach, interrupting ourselves here and there to have some "real talks" which I really, really appreciate in fellow wellness professionals. She kept the consultation incredibly comfortable, engaging and she felt like a friend with an endless amount of applicable knowledge.

There really is something to be said about making a bit of an investment in getting to know all those underlying layers that affect your every day. Your ups and downs have causes beyond the emotional, there is always a scientific tie and getting some insights into all those feelings is rejuvenating.

My consultation was finished off with IV therapy so that I was replenished with a ton of vitamins, receiving far better absorption than is obtainable through oral dosages. It was kind of nice sitting in the IV lounge and chatting with other patients, as well. The setting itself is beautiful and relaxing, in an old house in the north part of Toronto.

I really can't say enough good things about this visit. And though I had visited a naturopath in the past, this experience was entirely more personable and effective for me for the longterm. Her practice also features massage experts and culinary nutritionists so that you can get a whole handful of care and direction.

If you want to have a better understanding of your body, if you need some professional guidance, if you need a vitamin boost for a number of glowy days, I highly recommend going the naturopathic route and knowing all that you can about your very unique health profile.

Contact: Dr. Tara Cambpell Higher Health Naturopathic Centre & IV Lounge 7 Yonge Boulevard Toronto, Ontario M5M 3G6 Telephone: 416 482 0707 Website: http://higherhealthcentre.com/ Office email: info@higherhealthcentre.com

Debunking Seasonal Excuses

When we're not really ready to focus, we use all kinds of excuses. Time, fatigue, stress...Ironically, investing in our bodies only makes more time my making us more productive, boosts our energy and without a doubt, fights stress better than most methods.

A popular system of excuses is one that blames the seasons. In the summer, it's patio season. We're away at cottages, sitting on patios after work instead of hitting the gym, making the most of it because it doesn't last long enough. In the winter, it's too cold, we're too cozy, we crave heavier foods because "wah", it's cold.

Whether you are happy and healthy in your body really comes down to your initial mindset. Summer can be a time for more activity, garden-fresh foods and more energy from longer daylight hours. Winter can be a great time to bust out that slow cooker for healthy chilis and stews, hit a hot yoga class, break a sweat to keep warm, or have more sex! If you make feeling great in your body a priority, you will find yourself being more opportunistic in whatever season you're in, rather than using that season as an excuse to scale back and avoid action.

At the end of the day, it's a matter of wanting it. Often when my clients are feeling discouraged or off-track, that's the only question I have to ask. Does it matter to you? Do you want it? Let's face it, feeling great in your body has you living an extraordinarily better life. Bring that fit-person lifestyle with you everywhere you go, through every season. If you stick it on a shelf and make excuses to go on living passively, the only one who's missing out is you - season after season.

Unclog Your Pores

I'm writing in a little breakfast room in the town of Tavira in the Algarve region of Portugal. I've been gone about a week and a half now, and planned to do buckets more writing than I've actually gotten around to. It takes time to declutter your own brain, and then it takes time to soak in some cleansing sights and breaths... it takes time to "turnover" your creativity and your thoughts. I still have things churning in me but I have a couple of quiet days here, and I might as well try to knead out some of this action. The biggest running thread in my life and in the lives of both those I work with and socialize with is the challenge of self-fulfillment, clogged creativity and feeling insufficient (a conversation with a friend just last night really spiked this last bit).

Our world, still wonderful, is becoming strange in a way. We are encouraged to be so available to everybody all the time. I will add a quick note here that being available is my favourite part of life - where I may fall short, being available to someone who might need me, if they just say the words, is not a thing I've ever been willing to compromise on. It's important to me. But besides relationships, in the world of social media and in social situations in general, we are floating around being pre-determined by individuals with their own sensitivities, hang ups and opinions at all times. It can affect how we react as well, and can take us further away from ourselves.

If you are spinning or feeling clogged (like your own authenticity is not breathing clearly - maybe you're running around on the surface filling in your gaps with temporary solutions), then I want to present you with an idea.

*If you're bending over in every direction, you're never fully looking ahead for yourself. Or around you. And if you don't do this, life will pass by quickly, abruptly and sometimes even abusively. Life can take a bite out of you and leave you starving.*

This may sound dramatic, perhaps its extremes aren't necessary. Maybe it's not applicable to me, or to you, today. But on some days it is. We are in a world now where we have to decide how much of ourselves to share, and what is self-fulfilling and what is self-preserving. I think I'm pretty committed to transparency at this point, because I really think we all owe each other some realness to support one another inadvertently, while completely supporting ourselves. And in doing so, it's vital that you push back or step yourself back to make sure you have the time and space that you need for your authenticity, self-fulfillment and creativity. This needs to be done at all costs. People around you will adapt, usually much more easily than you anticipate. Children? It's good for them to experience boredom occasionally. From this boredom they will develop and nurture their OWN creativity. Daydreaming is important. Being left alone with your brain is important. I am not a parent, and I'm careful not to take ownership over ideas that apply to things that I've not yet experienced, but I care about individual development and I do think that when we value ourselves and our own needs, the people around us actually deal with things in healthier ways.

Stand tall.

My trip, personally, was for some focused creative gardening after a long few years of build up. Not an escape, but with my attention span having gotten to as short a place as it has (like my traveler's psoas), I did need some wandering space for my brain and also to focus on my own health and fitness, to come home BETTER. A facial for my insides! I find I'm speaking so much these days with clients and friends alike about the concept of weeding. Removing debris to nurture what's left and even maybe to let new things grow.

Don't be afraid to take what you need for yourself. I support you, I know the rest of us will only benefit from your shiny, healthy & cleared authentic self.

Now I'll get this site back on fitness & nutrition matters. Because out of this trip I've birthed a new platform, a creative project, as integral to health as the way we move and the foods we eat. Stay tuned, and have a great weekend.

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