Archive | October, 2012

What I’m Reading Today

25 Oct

Another fantastic fall day!  The leaves are colourful, it’s sunny and warm, but not too warm – perfect autumnal weather.

As such, I’m going outside to play instead of  staying in and writing a long blog post.

As you know, I’m a bit of a reader, so here are some of the articles and posts that have caught my interest lately:


John Romaniello (Roman)’s blog is always a pleasure to read, but his most recent post was even more awesome than usual.  It was about five women in the fitness industry that you should know about.  And you totally should, because they are all amazing.

Read it!

These next two articles are related.  Both JC Deen and Jen Komas Keck wrote about looking fit versus being fit.  This is an important distinction, especially when so many of us have an ideal body in our mind when we set out on our fitness journey.  The body we think we want might not be the body that we need.  You can look great and feel awful.  That’s why your training and your diet need to take into account not just your body composition goals, but your performance goals and your overall health too.  Balance, people, in all things – balance.

JC’s article: “Why Getting Jacked, Strong and Lean is Never Enough”

and Jen’s “Looking Fit Doesn’t Mean Being Healthy”

Finally, those who know me know that I love me some audiobooks (and also the library).

My latest library acquisition is Augusten Burroughs’ This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike.   It’s not a usual self-help book, per se, but it’s a good one.  A little cynical, straight to the point, and actually helpful.  Regardless of whether you agree with him or not, Augusten is a riveting writer and listening to him speak his own words gives a whole new layer to the book.  There are some writers who shouldn’t read their own audiobooks – Mr. Burroughs is one who definitely should.

Right now, I’m in the middle of the chapter on shame.  While some of his thoughts about weight loss/gain/body image resonated with me, the shame stuff is hitting home.  He says that shame often masquerades as common sense – thinking that you’re not smart enough, or accomplished enough, or in a stable enough position financially to embark on some daring path, that’s not common sense, it’s shame.  And it’s holding you back.  It’s holding me back.  I think this book was a great (and timely) find and I’m anxious to see what else he has to say.
That’s it for today – have a wonderful Thursday!


Strong Curves: Women, Muscles, Bulk, and BS

18 Oct

“I don’t want to get big and bulky, I just want to be lean”.

If you are female, and in the fitness industry, you’ve heard someone say it.  You’ve seen women turn time and again to the cardio machines, instead of the weight room.  You’ve seen women lifting those pink 3 lb dumbbells so they don’t turn into some raging muscle-bound hulk.  You’ve maybe even been told (hopefully back in the mists of time) that you needed really high reps and really low weights to make sure you stay lean.

You’ve also likely seen the backlash – the Strong is the New Skinny campaign, Women and Weights classes at big box gyms, groups like Girls Gone Strong telling women it’s not only okay to lift heavy – it’s awesome.

Here’s the thing – some of us do think it’s awesome to lift heavy, to be able to see the definition in our muscles, and to train “like the guys do”.

There are a ton of benefits to lifting, not the least of which is fat loss.  Most people get into fitness because they want to feel better about themselves and look better naked.  Simple as that.  Want the most dramatic results?  Lift weights.  Aerobic training just doesn’t cut it if you want to change your body.  The more muscle you carry around, the more energy you need just to sustain life and maintain that muscle mass.  The more energy you need, the more calories you burn, even at complete rest.  Therefore, more muscle means a more efficient machine.

Women have been told for years that in order to “stay lean” and lose weight, they need light weights, high reps, and more aerobics.  Aerobic training (and tiny pink dumbbells) being the best tool for fat loss may be one of the greatest lies ever sold.  I could rail about how fitness marketing misleads and confuses people into buying items they don’t need, and following programs that are based on questionable (read: made-up or massively lacking) science, but that’s not really the point I’m trying to make here.  If you want to read more about that, JC Deen has a pretty great article about the way fitness marketers talk to women.

But fitness marketers aren’t the only ones who should be on the hook.  As a trainer, I say to my female clients, “lifting weights won’t make you bulky”.  I assume they’re talking about body-builders bodies, and assure them that figures like that take tons of dedicated work, and incredibly restrictive diet and training programs – neither of which they’re engaged in.  I tell them that the she-hulk they’re imagining they’ll become doesn’t happen by accident, and not to worry.  I tell them about the various health benefits of lifting, and how it will help them move in their day-to-day lives.

But I don’t know what “bulky” looks like to them.

I only know what it looks like to me.  Leigh Peele wrote a brilliant post about this disconnect.  Long, riveting read short, according to the 2000 women she polled online:

  • The majority of women don’t like the look of muscle on themselves or others.
  • The majority of women think that men prefer the look of a lack  of muscle on a woman’s body.
  • The majority felt that Jessica Biel and Hilary Swank (in Million Dollar Baby) define “bulky.”
  • The majority of the women expressed little interest in lifting weight, even if it didn’t result in a “bulking” effect.
  • A large majority of women would rather be too thin than either too fat or too muscular.
  • More women would choose to be fat over muscular.
  • Based on the actresses’ looks, women prefer softer and trim over too lean or too muscular.

Here’s my arm:

Here’s my stomach:

I’m practically The Situation.

Here’s my back:

Ask me now, and I’ll tell you I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve put into my body.  I love lifting and I love the way it helps me look.

If you’d asked me five years ago, and I’d have told you that girl looks kind of, well, bulky.  My idea of what is healthy and hot has changed over time. I’ve gotten used to the way that my body has changed over the years, and as a result my ideas about what’s sexy and what I want myself to look like have changed.  It’s important to understand that “sexy” looks different to each and every person.  And on that note, to know that “healthy” feels different to each and every person.

Yes, there’s lots of science to back up the benefits of weight training and building muscle.  Yes, I love to lift heavy and hit PR’s.  I love that there are groups like Girls Gone Strong that encourage women to rock it in the weight room.  I love going to a gym where I can do more pull-ups than a dude. But, as trainers, we have to make people fall in love with fitness first.

If women feel like they’re getting conflicting messages about what works, and they don’t love what they’re doing, they won’t keep doing it.  More than anything, I think it comes down to listening, and meeting people where they’re at.  Will their opinions change over time?  Maybe.  But finger-pointing, name-calling, and self-righteousness don’t make people fall in love with anything.  If you’re a fitness enthusiast, no matter what level, find something you love to do, and rock the hell out of it.  If you’re a trainer, help your clients find something they love and encourage the heck out of them.  In my (limited) experience, once a woman realizes how strong she can be, she’ll fall hard and fast for that feeling – but she has to come to it herself.

Your body is your own.  Only you should choose what it should look like, feel like, and do.  Just because some folks still say you should lift tiny dumbbells for a million reps, that doesn’t mean you should.  Just because lifting heavy for women is in vogue (read: finally being encouraged) right now, that doesn’t mean you should either.  You should find the thing that makes you feel awesome, that makes you feel accomplished, that makes you feel like you are owning your body – and do that thing.  A lot.

If you want to learn more about lifting heavy, I’d suggest you start here.  Nia has some amazing tips for “lifting like a girl”.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

11 Oct

So, the Badass Dash was fun – obstacles were interesting, 5k is not really that far, and we all finished in the first third (not bad for mostly first timers).

However, it was October.  And one of the last obstacles was a pool of cold water.  And there was nowhere to change.  And we all froze.

Which leads me to today’s post:

How to Keep Warm When Working Out in Cold-Ass Weather.

I love fall.  I know we’ve got a cold one on our hands here in Ontario, but I still love it and it won’t stop me from training outdoors.  So here are some handy tips to keep you active while the leaves are changing:

  1. Wear layers, make each one lightweight.  Keep a thermal one next to your skin to wick away moisture, then wool or fleece for insulation, then one for wind resistance.  Make subsequent layers easy to remove.  Mittens are better than gloves to keep your hands warm.  Wear a hat or headband.  Wear warm socks that breathe.  Make sure each layer breathes.  And when you are done your training session – change out of your workout clothes right away so you don’t get cold.
  2. Always warm up.  Especially when it’s cold.  Work yourself up gradually and get acclimatized to the conditions.  Don’t forget your cool down either.
  3. If you’re rollerskating outside in the cold, be very aware of the wind.  Since you’re moving quickly, the wind will be a factor and can damage your skin or make you super-cold super-fast.  Be vigilant.
  4. Listen to your body.  There are safety risks associated with training in extremely hot or cold conditions – if your skin starts feeling very cold to the touch, or begins to hurt or tingle, go inside.  If you start to shiver uncontrollably, go inside.  If you feel like you’re getting too cold – you probably are, go inside.

If the temperature is below 0, take appropriate precautions, make sure you’re covered, and be safe.

And, once you’re done your outdoor training session, get back inside and refuel with some healthy food (maybe some warm stuff).  Here’s another great Gourmet Nutrition recipe that covers all your post-workout needs (and is warm and comfy for the weather).  Enjoy!

Banana Cream Pie Oatmeal

Banana My Favorite Gourmet Nutrition Recipes


Low-fat milk or almond milk 1 cup
Coconut milk ¼ cup
Old fashioned large flake oats ½ cup
Water ¼ cup
Vanilla protein (equal to 25 g protein) 1 scoop
Banana (sliced) ½

Serving Size
Serves 2 large or 4 small.

Preparation Time
3 min. Preparation Time
10 min. Cooking Time

This recipe combines fresh bananas and coconut milk – a beverage made from the meat of mature coconut. Packed with anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal agents, coconut milk is not only delicious; it’s also very good for you. If you like the taste of piña coladas, you’ll love this oatmeal recipe.

In a small pot bring milk and coconut milk to a boil over medium heat. Add the oats. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until milk is absorbed (approximately 7-10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Combine 1⁄4 cup of water with protein in a separate bowl. Mix with a fork until protein is dissolved. For a smoother consistency, mix powder with water in blender or food processor and blend until protein is dissolved. Pour protein mixture and bananas over oatmeal and serve. Serves 2 large or 4 small.

Variations and Options
If you like your oatmeal softer, add 2-4 tablespoons of extra water to the pot before adding oats. If you are lactose intolerant or wish to avoid dairy, replace the 1 cup of milk with 1 cup of water and ½ scoop of protein powder or 1 cup of almond milk. Alternatively, you can substitute with non-cow’s-milk dairy (e.g. goat’s milk, yogurt). For a creamier mixture, instead of mixing the protein with ¼ cup of water, try combining the protein with ¼ cup of apple sauce or yogurt. If you’d like your oatmeal to be infused with banana flavor, add ½ cup of mashed banana once the oatmeal has simmered for 5 minutes. Then continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes or so.

Nutritional Information
(per serving)     large     small
Calories (k/cal)     523.1     261.6
Fat (g)     16.7     8.3
Saturated (g)     11.5     5.7
Monounsaturated (g)     1.4     0.7
Polyunsaturated (g)     1.2     0.6
omega-3 (g)     0.3     0.1
omega-6 (g)     0.9     0.5
Carbohydrates (g)     53.9     26.9
fiber (g)     6.1     3.1
sugars (g)     14.0     7.0
Protein (g)     39.4     19.7

The Dash of Badasses

4 Oct

Somehow, I got talked into doing this on Saturday:

I’m pretty excited for the obstacles.  I love climbing on things and under things.  I like monkey bars and foam pits and ropes and tires.  Being a not-very-tall person, I was always, as my mother would say “into things”, crawling into cupboards and climbing trees and stuff – I think this Saturday, I’ll get the chance to get into lots of things.

On top of that, I’m running the race with the most badass group of girls I know, skaters from (my league) the Tri-City Roller Girls.  Some of them trained with me to run the Tough Mudder back in August, and I couldn’t turn down the chance to participate in their next bout of craziness.

My Mudders ♥

We’ve been training again to lead up to the race, but not for the race.  I’ve started broader, more derby-focused, offskates conditioning sessions (with a way larger group of skaters – not just racers).  We’ve still been hill sprinting, doing lots of strength training, and generally being awesome, but no distance running.  The girls assure me we won’t actually be running distances.  I am skeptical, but excited.

Regardless, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be an awesome way to spend a fall morning.

So, yes – running a race on Saturday at really-early-o’clock.  Up a ski hill.  Through super-cool obstacles.  With a team of amazing women.

I may have under prepared for the running bits.