Archive | September, 2012

Wake Me Up When September Ends

27 Sep

Just a little post today.

September is drawing to a close.  It’s been a challenging month to say the least.  Sometimes that happens.  Sometimes everything goes wrong.  Sometimes, as a wise woman I know recently said, “you just want to get into bed with all your clothes on and pull the duvet all the way up”.

But, more often than not, we have to keep going.  We don’t have the liberty of hiding from the world.  We have jobs to do, bills to pay, business to handle, families to keep afloat.

It’s okay to be discouraged, to get angry, to be sad, to grieve.  Honour your feelings.  But don’t wallow in them.  Even when things are looking the worst, there are still small blessings.  Let yourself feel the joy of little things – a good cup of tea, watching dogs run around, the smell of a fireplace at night.

Today, it’s beautiful out.  It’s a perfect fall temperature, the sun is bright, and the sky is blue with some fluffy, white clouds.  The leaves are just starting to change colour.  It’s the best fall day yet.  I can’t wait to get outside in it, with friends.

Make sure to remember the little good things – because they are what will get you through the big bad times.  Even the worst of days has an upside if you seek it out.  And I guess that’s my point.  There’s always a rainbow if you look hard enough for it.

Change – It’s What’s For Dinner!

20 Sep

So, I’ve ordered (and received, super quick!) the Precision Nutrition certification course.  I’ve been loving the way the Dr. Berardi thinks, speaks, and educates about nutrition.  I can’t wait to get started!

Nutrition, portion control, and healthy eating habits have been a lifelong interest of mine, mostly because I find them so challenging.  The thing I like best about PN is the one-by-one, meet-you-where-you’re-at habit coaching.  Diets are easy and short-lived, lifelong healthy habits are not.

For much of my life, I’ve had a rocky relationship with food.  I generally make okay food choices, generally eat huge portions once a day and little else the rest of the day (which is another reason I like PN – they’re not so hung up about when you eat, but rather what and how).

My personal food challenge is change.  I’ve been making my own meals since I was eight.  With two working parents, and a busy extra-curricular schedule growing up, I became very accustomed to doing things a particular way.  I wanted my plate set up a particular way, with nothing touching, with a certain food pairings, certain plates, certain portions and so on.

This is one of the reasons that I used to love McDonald’s – no matter where I was in the world, a McDonald’s sandwich would always taste the same.  This was the framework around which my eating revolved.  It took me years to try sushi (which I now super love), and even more years to eat more than three things off the menu at the all-you-can-eat buffet.  At most restaurants, I would eat one dish that I knew was safe – I would never, ever try anything that included an ingredient that I hadn’t tasted before.

The height of the food neurosis came in college, where everything changed.  In a new city, with new roommates, and new everything else, food was the one place that I could find sameness and comfort.  I cut the same number of cheese slices to be melted in my macaroni & cheese every time, always ate 12 chicken wings and half a plate of fries, wouldn’t make a dish unless all of the components – including garnishes and the “right” plate and utensils were available.  I’d freak out if my roommates suggested eating together.  I’d freak out if a restaurant couldn’t make my order exactly the way I’d had it prepared last time (the girls at Subway hated me).  And if any little thing went wrong with the dish I was ordering, preparing, or planning – the meal was ruined and I wouldn’t eat at all.  Until later that night, when I’d eat a bag of chips or swedish berries.

Trust me, I was not a pleasure to live with.

Things didn’t start to change until I moved in with my now-husband, Slim.  He simply didn’t put up with the crazy rules and would often sneak unusual things into the meals that he made for us.  I remember him cooking turkey bacon (instead of normal bacon) one night, not telling me, and dealing with the fallout.  We once had a huge fight about him not cutting a tomato the proper way.  But he hung in there, and I gradually relaxed.

I think much of the mealtime relaxing was due to my life becoming more secure.  I don’t need food to be the same kind of security blanket that it once was.  I still have my hang-ups, and like to do my research before trying things.  But I feel that as I learn more about nutrition, I want to try more.  Also, there are things I want less – I haven’t eaten McDonald’s for a few years now.  While, on tough days, I occasionally crave it’s sameness, I know that I would far prefer to go to my gym and do a familiar workout than fill my body with what they have on offer.

Changing the way you eat doesn’t have to be terrifying.  It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing.  It doesn’t have to be pass or fail.

Rather, it should be a learning process.  Trial and error, figuring out what works for you, and how to treat your body the best way you can manage.  If you tackle “bite-sized” habits, one at a time, at your own pace, you are far more likely to stick with it and make the lasting changes you want.

For me, that’s not fearing change, and embracing that new foods and dishes can be just as satisfying as old, familiar ones.

So, in the spirit of trying new things, here’s a recipe that I think would be awesome for this rainy day.  It’s from Gourmet Nutrition (PN’s awesome cookbook).  I (newly) love spaghetti squash and this dish looks amazing.

Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti

Spaghetti squash 4 cups
Coconut oil or butter (melted) 1 tbsp
Salt ¼ tsp
Pepper 1⁄8 tsp
Cinnamon 1⁄8 tsp
Olive oil cooking spray
Ground sirloin or extra lean ground beef (340 g) 12 oz
Onion (small diced) 1 cup
Tomato sauce 2 cups
Cashews (crushed) ¼ cup
Parmesan cheese (grated) ½ cup

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut squash in half and clean out the center and seeds. Place cut side up on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil or butter. Season with salt, pepper and cinnamon and then place in the oven. Bake squash for 45 minutes or until tender enough to stick a fork into it with minimal resistance. Remove from oven and allow it to cool a little. While the squash is baking, preheat a non-stick frying pan on medium heat, lightly coat with spray and add the ground sirloin. Sauté the sirloin in batches if necessary, until lightly browned and cooked all the way through. Add onions and sauté for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat, add in the tomato sauce and cashews, and set aside. Once squash has cooled a little, scoop the flesh out of the skin with a spoon, measure and add it to the meat sauce. Next, reheat in the frying pan on medium until warm. Garnish with the parmesan. Serves 2 large or 4 small.

For more great recipes and info about Precision Nutrition, click here.

Health and Aging

13 Sep

Sorry for missing Monday’s post.  We had a family emergency – on Sunday night, my husband, Slim’s,  dad was brought to Emerg in extreme respiratory distress. 

What does this have to do with fitness, you say?

This – don’t let your muscles waste as you age.

Walk, cycle, stretch, engage in a sport that you love, lift weights.  Do something.

Slim’s dad is 90 lbs on a good day.  He has incredibly limited mobility, has never been given physiotherapy, and was never offered respiratory therapy after lung surgery.   It’s no wonder he can’t breathe – his body is not a machine built for breathing any more.

You only get one body.  Mike Boyle says it brilliantly here, you will spend both time and money on your body – why not take preventative measures while you still have the chance?

And when you have a major event, like the one we’ve just had, why not use it as a springboard to advocate for your care?  Get the rehabilitative measures that you need.  Inform yourself.  Stay on your medical professionals until you are satisfied with the answers, solutions and care they are giving you.  No one gets better by just letting recovery happen to them – you need to be an active participant in your own care.

And finally, you are never too far gone to make positive change.  Reach out to those who can help you.  Have a plan to manage your pain.  Have a rehabilitative strategy.  You will never know what your quality of life could have been if you don’t pursue your options.  Let’s be clear, Slim’s dad will not be out running marathons.  But if he keeps on this path, he might get out of the hospital.  And if we have a plan and stick to it, he might be able to walk down the street again.

He’s not out of the woods yet.  But we’re cautiously optimistic.  And this time, when we leave the hospital, we’re going out with a plan.

Top Ten Reasons Why Group Exercise is Awesome

6 Sep

Group exercise.

What does that make you think of?  Spin class at the gym?  An hour of stepping on and off something?  A camo-clad screamy drill sergeant bootcamp?  Tiny weight-clutching Bosu dance-robics?

Group exercise may have a checkered past, but don’t we all?  Group exercise doesn’t have to be awful – in fact, group exercise is pretty much awesome.      Here’s why:

1) Derby is group exercise

Like it or not, sports are exercise.  Therefore, sports that you play in a group are group exercise.  Derby is awesome, therefore group exercise is awesome – see the logic?  I totally took Logic 101 in school.

2) Accountability

Knowing that there is a group and a trainer waiting for you at a certain place and a certain time can be a huge motivator for some folks.  This doesn’t have to be a “group class”, it can be small group personal training, it can be a workout buddy, heck it can even be derby practice.  When I know someone is expecting me, I’m way more likely to be there than if left to my own devices.

3) Social Dynamics

Doing almost anything with others is more fun than doing it alone.  Group exercise helps you makes new friends and broaden your social horizons.  Want to get to know the new Fresh Meat?  Make them your partner in a workout – you’ll get to know each other super fast, and you’ll both be better for it.

4) Team Mentality

You derby girls know, a team is a powerful thing.  Shared biological events (eating, sleeping, working hard) bond you even closer.  What better way to tighten your team unity than sweating through a tough off-skates session together.  You can support each other, encourage each other, complain to each other.  Once the training session or class is done, you can all discuss how much more awesome you are for having conquered it.

5) Competition

I don’t need to say too much about this one.  If you skate derby, you’re probably already a little bit competitive.  Naturally, being in a group will make you want to show off, push yourself, and push those around you.  Big wins all around.

6) Definite Start and Stop Times

Bootcamps, classes, and the like have a clear schedule.  There’s no “when I get around to it” about a group training session.  You have a clearly defined time that you can set aside week after week, which helps to form healthy habits.

7) Efficiency

A good run-of-the-mill bootcamp will have a dynamic warm-up, a resistance training component, an energy system development component (cardio), and a cool down.   This saves you the time and energy of trying to design a balanced program for yourself.  A good coach will have a decent program design that will challenge fitness level of each participant.  It may not be a fully periodized, personalized training plan, but it’s usually a good plan based in exercise science designed by someone who knows what they’re talking about.  Efficient for your body, since you can get a decent whole-body workout from one bootcamp, and efficient for your schedule since you don’t have to do any of the research.

8) Lower Cost

When the number of participants goes up, the price goes down.  But, if the instructor is worth their salt – the quality stays exactly the same.  Personal training can be out of reach for some budgets.  Group fitness classes are usually offered free at gyms, and can be very reasonably priced from personal training studios.  Also, bootcamps aren’t the only lower-cost option.  More and more studios are offering small group training.  With small groups, you still get a personalized training plan, and hands-on coaching, but there are usually 3-5 of you working with a trainer at once, rather than one-on-one.  For all of the benefits to  small group training – see above.  Small group training is the way of the future (or, really, the way of the right-now).  Maximum results, maximum encouragement (since you have friends as well as a trainer pushing you), and maximum bang for your fitness buck.

9) Personal Touch

Mark my words, if you’re in a bootcamp or class with a trainer, they want to keep you happy.  They want to keep you as their client.  They want you to get results.  Good trainers will go out of their way to modify exercises for you, to take your injuries, limitations and challenges into account, and to tailor-make a workout that will keep you engaged and enthusiastic.  Good trainers will give you an assessment before they start with you (even in a group setting).  Good trainers will watch your form and give you corrections.  Basically, good coaches will coach – regardless of whether there are two people in the room or twenty.

10) This:

You can wear every single one of these outfits to group fitness events and it is totally acceptable.  To a one-on-one meeting with your new trainer, maybe not so much.

(disclaimer: it’s probably only acceptable to wear these outfits if your trainer and training group are really, really, cool)

There you have it, ten reasons why group fitness is boss.  So what are you waiting for?  There are thousands of classes, bootcamps, and small group training sessions out there.  Find one that suits you best (ideally one that lets you wear neon lycra and headbands), go forth and be awesome!

Happy Labour Day!

3 Sep

It’s Labour Day, and as such, I’m taking a break from my labours, so no new content today.

For your holiday reading pleasure, here’s an awesome post from from Tony Gentilcore about keeping your training simple and on point.

Hope you’ve had a relaxing and rewarding Long Weekend!