Challenge Yourself and Stay Motivated this Winter and Holiday Season!

 

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Winter is coming, we all know it. The days are getting shorter, and colder. It is during this time of the year that I find motivation to do any sort of physical activity other than Christmas shopping or baking, to be at an all time low. I used to work at an all women’s gym, and during this time of year it was basically a ghost town. Especially after work! This was because the majority of the clientele were moms, and moms have the special task of making Christmas happen for their families. I’m the biggest fan of Christmas! However, I do know that it can be a very stressful time of year. This is why keeping up with your exercise during this time of year is so important, and I’m here to give you some ideas on how to do just that!

I do understand that it’s cold outside, there’s less light, and this can all have an affect on your energy levels. However, there is nothing better than exercise to help with your stress, fatigue, and overall mood. Here is an idea on how to keep yourself active during this time of year:

Sign up for, or create your own fitness challenge! 

I have personally signed up for a fitness challenge this Christmas Holiday with two of my good friends from university. I have my own personal fitness goals that are forever changing to help me grow as a person, and as a fitness professional. I also think it’s important to try new things, and to meet new people. Plus, signing up for a fitness challenge with friends holds you more accountable to your goals, and to the challenge itself! If you’re wondering what challenge I signed up for? It’s the BOND X RIDE CHALLENGE. It’s a  5 week challenge that started on December 1st. Basically, you have to complete one 5K run, and one cycle class a week for 5 weeks. Now, this may seem really easy to some of you, and you’re right. It’s not a super hard challenge to complete. However, I personally hate running, and I’ve never done it in the winter. To me, that is a challenge! In addition, I picked this challenge because it’s fun! And because it’s totally possible to complete it during the holidays! There’s no reason why I can’t fit one class  and one run outside with BOND running a week.

So, my advice to you is sign up for a challenge this winter! A lot of gyms and studios run challenges during this time of year to help keep members motivated and engaged. If you’re not a member of the studio or gym, sometimes they have discounts to join the challenge, or other incentives. If there isn’t a challenge available to you at your local gym or studio etc, then create your own! Challenge yourself to attend at least two fitness classes a week for the next 5 weeks, or to go for two runs/walks outside. It doesn’t matter what the challenge is, just pick an activity that you enjoy doing, one that gets you moving, and make sure that you are making it a priority to complete the tasks you have set out for yourself every week. Also, it is much more fun to conquer any challenge with a friend, but if you can’t find someone to commit? Then commit to yourself! Make this a Christmas gift to you! Because you deserve to make yourself a priority!

I’m sure we have all at least thought about our bodies recently, and the effect the holiday season has on it. Or maybe we have fitness goals of our own, and we’re afraid of getting derailed? At the very least, I know that many of us have weight loss goals for the New Year, but why wait until then? Start working on your goals now! If you can commit yourself to your goals now by creating or joining a fitness challenge for yourself, there’s no reason why you can’t achieve those New Years Resolutions! Especially if you complete the challenge! Now, don’t expect miracles for yourself this holiday season. Pick or create a challenge that is “challenging” for you, that is totally possible to complete, and that it is something that you enjoy doing! You will not make time for your challenge if it doesn’t meet these requirements! Also, if you are creating your own challenge? Have a reward for yourself at the end! If you worked hard, and met all the requirements of the challenge, then you deserve to celebrate!

To recap, these are the things you need to motivate yourself to stay active this holiday season:

  1. You need a goal, or a “why.” You need a reason why doing this challenge is important to you. Maybe you have an overarching goal, like to loose 10 lbs and completing this challenge will bring you one step closer to that goal. Or maybe the goal is to keep your sanity this holiday season? Whatever the goal it needs to mean a lot to you.
  2. Pick an activity that you ENJOY! It can be anything! But you have to like it enough to want to do it more than once a week. If you don’t love the activity, you may find things that you like about it. For example, you may like the music the instructor plays, the instructor themselves, or the people who attend the class. Either way, there has to be something that motivates you to do it in the first place.
  3. The frequency and time frame for your challenge needs to be realistic for your current lifestyle. If you haven’t set foot in the gym in months, then don’t think a 30 day challenge where you have to go everyday is going to help. Choose a frequency that is challenging for you, but that you are capable of adopting into your current fitness regiment or overall schedule. I would say you should be doing this activity at the very least, twice a week for about 4-6 weeks. That will give you enough time to maybe see a difference in your fitness or to find yourself a new hobby. The idea is to continue being active once the challenge is over…
  4. Schedule out your activity into your everyday life. You need to make it a priority by adopting it into your current schedule and holding yourself accountable to that appointment. You are far more likely to be successful if you make the time for your physical fitness. Plus the entire holiday season will seem a lot less overwhelming if you set a schedule for yourself, or at least daily tasks to complete.

For those of you who are leaning more towards hibernation this winter season, I strongly urge you to resist! You will most likely regret it. Just because winter invites you to hide behind a frumpy sweater, doesn’t mean you should! Exercise shouldn’t just happen during the months when people are more likely going to see your body in public. Yes it’s cold outside, there’s less light during the day, and this can all affect your energy levels and your mood. But exercise is the best method to combat these issues! Exercise boosts your mood, your energy levels, you will sleep better, and you will perform better during the day. If you’re already stressing out about all the obligations you have this holiday season? Then you need to make self-care a priority, and I am looking at all of those moms out there! Trust me, you will be better able to take care of everyone else once you have taken care of yourself first! But enough ranting, some form of physical activity everyday is important for maintaining or improving your overall well being. Get moving this winter, I promise you won’t regret it!

 

 


Normalizing Pain as part of the aging process, but nothing ages you more than pain and lack of mobility…

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. My last blog post was super technical and it was about myofascial release. I know that not many of you know what that is, and since pain has been a topic that has come up a lot with my clients and myself, I decided to dedicate another post to the issue. Hopefully after reading this post you will look back on my last post What is Self-Myofascial Release? What is Trigger Point Therapy? And how can it help me? and find ways to relieve your body of pain. It is the daily aches and pains that you feel, that general stiffness that is preventing you from being able to perform properly at the gym, and therefore it is hindering your progress.

I have found that we generally normalize the pain that we experience on a regular basis as part of “getting older.” Sore necks, backs, sore knees when squating or doing lunges, all seem to be attributed to age and are just left to get worse. Sometimes people treat these issues with the occasional massage therapy, and physiotherapy, but they never follow through with the recommended stretches and exercises. Basically, the problem never goes away, and if anything it gets worse. For some reason, I think that people have this idea that somehow the problem will just go away. However, the problem never really “goes away,” instead people have found ways of babying the injury. They avoid certain sports, exercises, and movements. Generally people avoid pain at all costs, so they will avoid anything that may cause them further pain, even if it will benefit them in the long run. Even when someone has injured themselves, they may avoid treating the injury all together to avoid the pain of rehabilitation. Generally the treatment for these kinds of issues is painful, tedious, and not so fun. On the flip side, if you choose to ignore your injuries and your current pain, then it will most likely become worse. So much so that you can no longer ignore it. So, why wait for that? Because if you think the rehab would be painful now? Just wait until the problem has escalated!

In addition, you will never get the body you want by avoiding compound exercises that may cause you pain like the squat. Plus you will forever have a body with major imbalances, pain, and weakness if you don’t treat the issues that are causing you pain and immobility. Ladies, you won’t get a squat booty, if you’re not able to properly activate your glutes. Most people when they squat they only feel their quads, or their knees hurt, and that’s because a lot of them cannot get into a proper squat position. Why is that? Because their body won’t allow them to. They don’t have the mobility. You may think that you’re squatting, because you’re getting low. Your brain is telling your body to squat and your body is doing the best it can with what it has, and if you don’t have the range of motion in your joints because you’re too tight, then your body will find the path of least resistance to get you down in a “squat.” The best way to know if you’re squatting properly is to have someone film your squat and/or have someone take a photo of you at the bottom of the squat position, then compare it to a video/photo of a proper squat movement pattern. That is the only way you can see for yourself whether or not you’re doing it right. I have a video and a blog piece about squatting, take a look and compare yours. Squat Tutorial Video!  I also have a blog piece called I can’t Squat Because…. Check it out if you think you have trouble with this exercise! The reason why I brought up the squat is because it is a very complex and important basic exercise that many people perform incorrectly for various reasons, and one major reason is because of lack of mobility. There are other exercises that can be drastically improved once you have improved your range of motion. In fact, the greater your range of motion the better you are able to activate your muscles. This is why addressing your aches, pains, and muscle tightness is so important to not only getting the results you want but to help prevent you from causing further damage. If you don’t address these issues, you will only get so far in the gym before you have to either give up and just let your health suffer, or you can face the music and deal with your pain.

Generally speaking, I am quite flexible and I have the full range of motion of all my joints. I do get tight hips from time to time, but other than that I am naturally flexible and have maintained my flexibility up until now. It is because I have maintained my flexibility, I have been able to avoid any major injury. **KNOCK ON WOOD** I have never seriously injured myself or broken a bone. I’ve had minor strains, and pulled muscles, and a cyst on my ankle, but that’s about it. It is a fact that some people are more prone to injury, but most of the time injury happens because of repetitive movement, lack of flexibility/range of motion, or malpractice. What do I mean by malpractice? I mean either doing something really dangerous and not so smart, or improper form. Improper form is usually caused by immobility, meaning your muscles are too tight and they will not allow your joints to move freely. This means that no matter how hard you try and correct your form, you will not be ale to do it right until your body has loosened up. The only way to fix it is by addressing the issue that is restricting your movement. On the other hand, improper form can also be caused by ignorance, you were never taught how to properly execute the exercise. That can easily be fixed by asking for help. However, if that is not the case and your body simply won’t allow you to execute the movement correctly, then you must relax those muscles using various methods before you can re-learn the movement pattern and perform the exercise correctly.  It is only then, that you will truly reap the benefits of your workouts.

I’m not saying that you can’t workout at all if you are highly inflexible, that’s not true. You can modify many exercises to help you in the mean time. However, you will never be able to exercise to your fullest potential if you don’t take the time to stretch, and rehab your pain away. You must put yourself through the pain of foam rolling, massage therapy, cupping, athletic therapy, accupuncture, physiotherapy, stretching, and/or yoga to get your body working at it’s best. This pain is only temporary, especially if you do the exercises and stretches that these professionals who treat your pain give you! Sure, doing therapy will help in the short term, and it is definitely an important part of anyone’s fitness journey, but all of it will be in vain if you don’t work hard to maintain it! Just like your six pack of abs, it can easily disappear if you don’t take the time to stretch on a regular basis. Just because the pain has gone away, does not mean it will never come back! This is why it is so important to incorporate stretching and rehabilitation into your regular exercise routine. Flexibility and mobility for most people is earned, and it diminishes as you age. The only way to maintain your range of motion is to constantly stretch and foam roll before and after your workouts. Massage helps as well, but not everyone has the ability to get a massage regularly. That being said, you must properly warm up your body, and make sure that you get the blood flowing to the muscles that you will be using in your workout, and that you have primed the major joints that will be used in your workout as well. After your workout, it is important to stretch, even the next day if you’re sore from your previous workout. Doing nothing and laying on the couch won’t make it better. It may actually keep you sore for longer!

Stretching, foam rolling, and massage therapy all hurt so good. The pain is real, but at the same time it feels good because your body is releasing tension, and harmful toxins. Rehabilitation can be a lot of work, and it can be very exhausting as well. This may be a reason why a lot of people avoid it, but the pay off is so high! I’ve watched a lot of my clients and even some of my friend’s movement patterns, and I wonder, how do they live?! It just looks so awkward, and uncomfortable! I can tell that they’re in a lot of pain, even if they don’t want to admit it. If anything, they may have become numb to the pain! It’s sadly become their norm. Back pain, tight shoulders and neck pain are so very common. So many of us work at desks, and don’t sit properly. This is mostly because you’re sitting too long, and if you’re sitting for extended periods of time your posture is bound to fail. Therefore, back and neck pain are almost guaranteed. No amount of pills like Advil is ever going to make the problem go away. In fact, medication like that only treats the symptoms of back pain, but not the source pain itself. Like I’ve mentioned before, the only way to treat this sort of pain is through therapy, regular exercise, and proper nutrition. Of course making your desk more functional and taking regular breaks so that you’re not sitting for too long at a time are all important as well. However, in general nutrition, exercise, and proper rest are the trifecta of good health! Proper rest/relaxation (this includes stretching, massage, meditation etc), regular exercise (cardiovascular and weight training), and proper nutrition are the very basics to optimal health and a body that you can be proud to call home. Nobody wants to live in a body that is full of pain and discomfort. It is this sort of pain and discomfort that prevents you from doing things, not just exercise, but all kinds of things, especially as you get older! And that’s the saddest part of it all! You may not think that you’re causing yourself too much harm by not exercising regularly, or stretching regularly, or avoiding your aches and pains altogether. It is not until something serious happens to us, or when we start to loose the ability to do the simple things in life, that we begin to realize how much we have failed ourselves. Please don’t let that be a sad realization that you come to. Of course age is something we cannot prevent, but you can age gracefully, and with less pain. Age does not have to be as painful as it seems! Do yourself a favor and take care of your body, give yourself the gift of free range of motion. It’s not easy, but it is so worth it to be able to move in any way you please without worrying about pain! Most of us were born with the ability to move as we please, without ever thinking about it. We as small children had full range of motion. Over time a lot of us have lost this ability, because we have stopped moving, and we have stopped practicing our flexibility. But all is not lost! You can regain strength, range of motion, and flexibility! It’s tough, but it is so empowering to be able to do whatever you want with your body.


How Not Sleeping Properly Can Increase Your Pant Size

Sleeping Beauty was definitely on to something, and I’m here to tell you why! I have touched on the topic of sleep and stress management in one of my previous articles called Day 5 of the 12 Days of Fitmas: Sleep and Stress Management During the Holidays. It seems as though the times when we need sleep the most, we actually sleep the least. It is when we are the most stressed out, with the biggest to-do lists in the world, that we tend to run ourselves on empty, and then pay for it big time in the long run. Not getting enough sleep can be quite dangerous! You could burn yourself out, and cause yourself to get seriously ill.However, sleep deprivation is not just bad for your overall health and well-being , it can actually dull your brain activity. This causes you to make bad decisions, because your frontal lobe (which is in charge of decision-making and impulse control) is deeply affected by lack of sleep, it’s kind of like being drunk. Sometimes lack of sleep can be worse than being drunk! We shouldn’t drive, or operate any sort of machinery drunk, so why is it so common that we force ourselves to drive, or go to work when we are sleep deprived? That can’t be safe right?! Safety aside, if you’re drunk (or just overtired) you are more likely to over eat, and eat take out food. You are also likely going to skip out on exercise as well. All of these activities, and drinking excess amounts of caffeine only exacerbate the situation, making you feel more tired, stressed out, lazy, and just not good.

In addition, if you’re overtired, and you can no longer control your impulse to grab McDonald’s instead of making yourself something nutritious for dinner, your brain’s reward system is revved up when you’re overtired. So, now you have a craving for McDonald’s that you can’t control, and once you eat that McDouble sandwich, because it’s comfort food (high fat, high carb, lots of salt), your brain’s reward system is going crazy! This makes it even more difficult to not eat take-out again, or to resist grabbing desert after your McDouble, and grab a snack size McFlurry. Basically, being impulsive and caving into your cravings for comfort food because you’re so tired, and your reward system being heightened only perpetuates the issue. You’re tired so you need energy, and comfort food is high calorie aka high energy, so once you eat it, you feel awesome, and then you don’t. Your insulin level spikes, and then falls drastically making you feel like a slug. Supper tired, and fat. Generally, you want to pass out right after you eat these things, which is probably one of the worst things you can do. If you can’t go to sleep after eating a high calorie take-out for lunch, then you’re more likely going to pick up a coffee of some sort, which will affect your ability to sleep well that night. This is because it takes about 4-6 hours for the effects of caffeine to ware off. This all depends on how much coffee you drink after lunch, how fast your metabolism is and so on. If you are a smaller human, the effects of coffee last much longer, than if you were a larger, more muscular human. These high calorie, and highly caffeinated diets only make you feel like an empty shell of a human that is just going through the motions. Who wants to live like that? You feel awful, and you will never look your best if you keep that up.

Moreover, people who lack sleep, are more likely to indulge in late night snacks. These snacks also tend to be high carb and high fat, like cookies, or chips. It’s so funny when clients tell me they don’t have a sweet tooth, but they love chips. I think people forget that just because it doesn’t taste sweet, does not mean there’s no sugar or carbs in it. Potato chips are high carb, high fat, and high salt, which will only have you retaining water. So you’ll wake up looking and feeling super puffy and fat. No one likes to feel bloated, and fat! Even if you’re doing a good job of trying to avoid eating junk food, when you’re tired, you are more likely to just eat more food in general. This is because your body is lacking energy, so it’s going to try to eat energy (calories is energy for the body). So, you will start to eat more calories in general if you’re not getting enough beauty sleep, to try to make up for the lack of energy. Maybe that’s why they call it beauty sleep? Either way, we all feel better, and look much better when we are properly rested.

Sleep is like nutrition for the brain, and most people need at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Getting less than that can cause the most determined dieter to reach for the pint of ice cream. If weight loss is a major goal for you? Then your first goal should be to get on a regular sleep schedule no matter what. No matter how stressed out you may be, or how much work you may have to do, you cannot perform properly if you’re not sleeping. Even if it seems counter productive to quit working late nights, because you’re trying to “get ahead,” how much quality work are you actually getting done? I personally find that I am the most effective and productive during the day. I feel the best when I have gone to bed early, gotten 8 hours of sleep, and I have started my day early. I love starting my day early and ending my day early. It makes me feel so productive, and I also feel like I have enough of my day left to rest and decompress before I have to go to bed again and start over the next day. Believe it or not, your workload isn’t going anywhere, and you can walk away from it, then come back to it the next day well rested and better able to tackle it. I know there are times where you may feel like you can’t just “walk away” from your work, but you’re going to be working for most of your life anyway, so is it worth sacrificing your well-being? Maybe that’s something you have to ask yourself? I actually think that you would be able to get much more done during your regular work day if you sleep well, eat well, and exercise on a regular basis, and you won’t have to let your work life encroach on your home life too much. How about that? Sounds lovely right? I’m sure most of us know that we need more sleep, and we need to eat better, and exercise, but far too many of us don’t do these things enough.

If I still haven’t convinced you to get more shut-eye, or to take a nap here and there, then did you know that lack of sleep can affect your hormonal health as well? If your hormones are out of whack it is much more difficult to resist cravings, and cravings come much more frequently. This doesn’t just effect women, if effects men as well. However. ladies, you all know what it feels like when your hormones are out of whack and all you want is chocolate by the truck load! Lack of sleep impacts your leptin and ghrelin hormones. These hormones signal your brain to let you know when you’re hungry and when you’re full. Ghrelin tells your brain when it’s time to eat. When you’re sleep deprived, your brain produces more ghrelin. Leptin on the other hand tells your brain when to put your fork down. When you’re sleep deprived, leptin levels plummet, which only tells your brain that you need more food. If you put all of this together, it’s pretty obvious how sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain. The stress that you’re putting on your body now from lack of sleep, a high caffeine/high calorie diet, plus all the stress you’re putting on yourself from work, your home life, your finances and so on, only signal your body to produce more of the stress hormone cortisol.What is cortisol? It is one of the steroid hormones and it is made in the adrenal glands. Secretion of this hormone is controlled by hypothalamus, the adrenal gland, and the pituitary gland. Because most cells in the body have cortisol receptors, it affects many different bodily functions. Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory. It can also control salt and water levels in the body, as well as blood pressure. People with high cortisol levels tend to gain weight rapidly in the stomach, chest, and face. Often doctors will notice this because the person will have slender arms and legs, and most of their weight gain is centered in the middle of their body. There are several more negative effects of high cortisol levels, including an increase in anxiety and depression as well. Now, sleep deprivation will have you eating more, more often, and it will reduce your body’s ability to metabolize all of this extra food. This will only have your body gaining weight and hanging on to fat. If that wasn’t enough, like I mentioned before, sleep deprivation will cause your body’s ability to process insulin ( a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy) to go out of whack. This is bad because, if your body is having trouble responding to insulin, then your body will have trouble processing fats from your bloodstream, and will therefore store them as fat.

I’m not saying that if you sleep, you will lose weight (it is possible though!), what I’m saying is that not enough sleep hampers your metabolism and it can lead to weight gain. Also, getting adequate sleep will have you feeling much more motivated to not only tackle your work day, but to exercise on top of that! You be much more productive at work, and in your life in general! This will only have a positive effect on your overall well-being. Your mood will improve, and so will your energy. Proper sleep will have you making better food choices, which will give you the fuel to power through your day, and your workouts. Regular exercise will have you getting more quality sleep, and the circle continues. As you can see, everything is connected. Nothing in life is every separate from another. Better sleep positively effects your diet, workouts, and your diet and workouts effect your sleep. If you feel like everyday you’re just going through the motions. Like you’re surviving life, rather than living life? Then maybe you need to take a step back, and re-evaluate what you have going on. Take more time out of your day to take care of your basic needs, this includes proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Even if you don’t think you need to lose weight, exercise is not meant just for weight loss! We all need to keep our bodies strong so that we can conquer the crazy things that life throws at us. Life is too short to not be able to enjoy it fully, and no one is having fun if they feel tired all the time! So, if getting enough quality sleep seems to be a consistent issue for you? Then here are some tips on how you can begin to improve your sleep schedule:

  1. Shut down your phone, laptop, television, basically all your electronics a half hour to an hour before bed. The blue light that is shines from those devices negatively effects your REM cycle. Plus, reading a stressful text, or email can have you up all night when really there’s not much you can do about it until the morning anyway. So, I put my phone on do not disturb before I start to brush my teeth and such before bed. It helps a lot!
  2. Do your best to leave the bedroom for just sleep and sex. Think of your room as a place for relaxation of release, rather than a place for work and entertainment.
  3. We all have morning rituals, things we do every morning before work, do the same for your bedtime. Have an herbal tea, read a book, have a bath, anything that you find relaxing. Have some YOU time, you deserve it! 😉
  4. Try to wake up, and go to sleep at the same time everyday, even on weekends! This is something that I have a hard time doing, and it really does affect my Monday mornings… I’m sure many of you can relate!
  5. Avoid alcohol, and heavy meals close to bed time. This will cause you to have a restless sleep. Also, make sure to not have caffeine after 4 pm because like I mentioned above, it can take up to 6 hours for you to metabolize all the caffeine.
  6. Lastly, make sure your room is nice and dark! Darkness tells your body it’s time to sleep and it helps your body produce melatonin, which is the sleep hormone. Light on the other hand suppresses the release of melatonin.
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Princess Belle has the idea! Taking a cat nap all snug in my sister’s drawer next to a dream catcher, nothing but sweet dreams for Belle ❤


Never Assume, and ALWAYS listen

Today is the #Bellletstalk day, the campaign to help break down the stigmas of mental illness. I for one, greatly support this cause, and I would like to join the conversation. Quite a few people who are near and dear to me have suffered from some form of depression at some point in their life. I have learned a lot from trying to be a support to the people that I love the most who have suffered from depression. It was never easy, and it can definitely be heart breaking at times for sure, but if I could summarize what I’ve learned, I can break it down into two things:

1. Never assume that everyone is doing well, even when they say that they are doing well. Most people aren’t willing to tell you their troubles. Even if you are the closest of friends, or even family. A lot of times there is a lot of shame, and guilt that come with depression, and they may not be willing to burden you with their troubles. So, they carry this cross on their own, suffering in silence. If you suspect that something may be wrong, or that they aren’t as “good” as they say they are, then please ask again! Keep asking, and let them know that you care. Make them feel safe, this may mean that you have to reveal something about yourself in order for them to be able to feel as though they can reveal something about themselves. You need to keep the lines of communication open, let them know you’re always there for them.

2. Another major thing I’ve learned is this, if someone does finally come to you with their troubles, LISTEN!!!! Don’t start spewing advice, that’s not why they came to you in the first place. They don’t expect you to help them, because they know you can’t really help them in the way that you think you can. If they honestly believed you could make all their troubles go away like magic, they would have probably come to you sooner. In reality, all they’re looking for is for someone to really listen to them, and try to understand them on some level. They just need to be heard.

Too often, we are superficial in our conversations. Sometimes, I feel like we talk to each other for the sake of talking to one another, without really listening, or caring about what the other person has to say. This is not to say that we do this all the time, or that we do this on purpose. But sometimes when we say “Hi, how are you?” We don’t really mean it. We don’t really want to know the whole truth about how someone is actually doing. Maybe it’s because we don’t really know this person that well? Or, we don’t feel that close to them maybe? OR maybe we’re not prepared for the answer? Who knows. At the end of the day, when we ask it, we generally expect a generic answer like “I’m good,” or “I’m fine thank you.” We don’t really ask the question and hear a different answer, and if we do, it’s generally a surprise to us (unless that person is visibly upset). I hope today, that when you ask this question, you are genuine about it, and that you really probe the person to know more about their life, and how it’s actually going. Even if they are happy, or content, that’s fine, but stop and take the time to take an interest in someone else’s life for a change. You may learn something! It also shows that person that you really do care about them, and that’s how you can start to open up those lines of communication. That way if someone is truly suffering, they may now feel like they have someone to confide in, and that can make a world of difference!

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So spread the word and raise awareness today! Please join me in helping to break down the stigma of mental illness, by starting a conversation about it. Help me create a safe space for anyone who might be suffering to feel as though they can talk about it, and ask for help. One in five people suffer from some form of mental illness, that means that every one of us has been effected by mental illness in some way. There are many reasons why people suffer from depression, or any other form of mental illness, and since it’s so common there is really no point in judging someone for it. I know that this is a touchy subject, and it’s not easy to talk about, but the best thing we can do for one another is to pay attention to one another!! Take the time to LISTEN to one another and have meaningful conversations, that is how I think we can start to heal those who are suffering in silence.

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Is watching Netflix, playing Video Games, or watching anything at all really that relaxing?

The discussion of television and whether or not it’s bad or good for you has been an issue for as long as I can remember. Especially now, when we seem to park ourselves in front of a screen all day, everyday. Whether it be your phone, tablet, computer, laptop, or television. Almost everything we do is mediated in some way by technology. Even though I’m a personal trainer, and I don’t work in an office, I still spend a ton of time on my phone. I don’t think I could live without my phone! I mean, I have, but not intentionally… (I’m the worst when it comes to my phone, either breaking it or losing it… I’m on a hot streak right now so hopefully the cycle has ended for me!) Either way, zoning out on Instagram, or Netflix may not be the best way to relax. Even though binge watching shows on Netflix can feel very relaxing, and it can release endorphins in our brains which make us feel good while we watch these shows, but what happens after we turn off our televisions?

I got the idea for this blog from my Dad. My Dad works a lot and his favorite way to relax is on the couch in front of the television. However, he doesn’t just watch television, sometimes he’s watching Youtube, and the television at the same time! He would spend hours in front of the television watching sports, Netflix, or old movies on TVO, but mostly sports, until he falls asleep which is pretty much every single time. However, a lot of us use Netflix, or some other form of media to watch our favorite series as a way of relaxing after a stressful day, or a long work week, or simply because we’re too hung over to do anything else. I don’t play video games, I’m horrible at them, but some of us choose video games as a way to relax instead of Netflix. Either way, we’re parked on the couch staring at the screen like zombies for a few hours.

Now television can be an effective way to relax because it easily distracts us from our daily worries, and our overworked minds. It doesn’t require any skill or physical labor, no one is bothering you or asking you to do anything. Unless it’s my mom. She gets bored at work I swear and calls the house for no real reason, she calls to ask if we had dinner? And what we’re doing? We’re all adults too, so we can make our own dinner just fine, but I guess that’s what mom’s do? I’m sure she still does this, even though I’m no longer living there to witness it, and every single time my Dad, or anyone who picks up the phone is rushing to get her off the phone so we don’t miss anything that’s going on, on the television. But in any case, television can allow you to get lost in a fictional narrative and forget about your own problems. I think this is why television is such a tempting way to unwind. We can get so caught up in our own lives, that when it all gets too overwhelming we just tend to want to shut down, and television, or social media allows us to do that. It allows us to become very passive. Even though, I don’t think this works real well in resolving any of the issues that are stressing you out, it is a very natural thing to want to do. We just want it to all go away sometimes, and hope that someone comes to save us. But that isn’t reality, and we realize this the second we turn off the television and have to face our lives again.

Television is a momentary escape, which can be a very good thing, but it does not solve the issues in your life that are stressing you out, nor is it very productive or healthy. Sure, there are some benefits to watching television, but in my opinion there are far more productive ways to relieve stress than binge watching Stranger Things (which is a great show by the way). The thing is, even though these shows can be very addictive, and engrossing, which makes them so great to watch, but after three hours or so, you look at the time and think holy shit! Where did all the time go?! Then you may actually feel more stressed out, then when you decided to watch television to relax in the first place! This is because television doesn’t make your financial troubles, boy troubles or girl troubles, or your deadlines go away. They will always be there looming in the background, and even though it’s perfectly healthy to find an escape from your woes from time to time, because television watching is so unproductive, and it can easily eat up so much of your time, it can actually have you feeling worse than when you started. A lot of people find that after watching hours of television, they feel more drained, and more tired, then if they decided to do a hobby, exercise, hang out with friends, or read a book as a form of relaxation.

Lastly, watching television, Instagramming, sending last-minute emails, or using any sort of screen before bed can negatively impact your sleep and your ability to relax properly. If you’re not sleeping properly, you are not as prepared to tackle your daily stresses, which will only stress you out more. The blue light that is emitted from your screens reduce your body’s ability to produce melatonin, which is the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle. Reducing melatonin in your body makes it harder for you to fall asleep, and stay asleep. In addition, it may seem harmless to Instagram before bed, or to watch a movie to help you fall asleep, but by keeping your mind engaged, technology can trick your brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake. This will reduce the amount of sleep you’re getting, which will make it harder for you to tackle your day. Also, if you see something negative on Instagram, like your ex posting a photo of a new girlfriend before you’ve had the chance to rebound,  this can keep you from relaxing and falling asleep. Instead, you may find yourself an hour later creeping every last photo on her personal Instagram account, and maybe even some of her friends… This is not positive, or productive. If anything, it is self-destructive behavior, and it does not help you move on with your life. None of these things listed above will help you be a better person, and it certainly won’t help you with your stress if you’re not allowing yourself a proper night’s sleep. These activities are very distracting, but not necessarily helpful. They do not make you feel better in the long run, because they do not solve your problems. They distract you from your problems, but they don’t necessarily give you energy, or help you learn something.

In the end, television can be a good way to relieve stress, but only if it’s done in moderation. I would personally suggest exercise, yoga, meditation, reading, or a hobby as a better way to relieve stress. Not only are all of these activities productive, but they are also very positive. It is an excellent distraction from your daily life, and it won’t have you feeling like you wasted your time doing nothing! You will most likely feel better, more energized, happier, and better prepared to take on your daily struggles. Also, some of these activities are very social, and don’t require you to be in front of a screen! So please, step away from the screen, meet people, learn new things, and get moving! Even just an hour a day of doing something positive, like reading, or exercise, will still leave plenty of time for you to get in an episode of your favorite show.

 

homer


New Year, New Blog: The Blame Game, a Reflection of the Past Year and the Year to come

Over the past year of 2016, I have not been so good with the frequency of my blog posts. I was even in the middle of writing my 12 Days of Fitmas this past December, and I didn’t finish it. There are several reasons for this, but there really isn’t a point in going through my various excuses. However, I did make a promise to myself last weekend during New Years Eve, that I would be more committed to my blog this year. Whether or not I follow through with this New Years resolution is completely up to me, and no matter what crazy stuff life throws at me, at the end of the day I have made a commitment to myself and to this blog. “Life” cannot be used as an excuse for anyone to not be able to achieve their goals, because bad things happen to everyone. Life is hard for everyone. Life harder for some more than others, but at the end of the day you can’t let yourself become a victim of circumstance. You can never give up on yourself, even if it seems utterly hopeless at first. Why? Because it doesn’t mean it has to stay that way!

The past year of 2016, for the most part has been deemed “a bad year,” by a lot of people on social media. I’ve seen so many memes, and songs made up about how 2016 took more things from us, than it gave us, and basically how they were so excited for 2016 to be over. This got me thinking… I wouldn’t say that 2016 was the worst year ever, at least not for me personally. There were a lot of good things that happened in 2016, some bad things for sure, but mostly 2016 was a year of a lot of change for me. If anything, 2016 was a very stressful year for me. I had to make a lot of hard decisions, and adjustments. I learned a lot, and I’m still learning. Change is good, and I’m happy so far with how things have been going. I feel as though I’m on the right path. But that doesn’t change that fact that change is also very hard. However, going through all of this change in my life and learning all these new things, has not changed some of my core values. This is why I am still so committed to this blog. Fitness, and health still matter so much to me, and so does helping other people. These things all make me so happy, and I cannot give those up no matter what is happening in my life. I’ve realized this past year even more so, how valuable working out and eating well is to me. This is because for a while during the summer I was living in this limbo between my Mississauga life, and the new life I’ve been trying to create in Toronto. I’m still in the process of forming my life in Toronto, but at least I’m fully situated in the city, and I am now better able to commit to my workouts and my regular diet.

Having a consistent workout regime, and a balanced diet can really help you have a better handle of the stress that life throws at you. I’ve learned that in the past for sure, and sometimes I forget, we’re all human, but I always remember how I was better organized, and prepared for life when I had a schedule, and consistent workouts. I felt like the best version of myself when I had fully committed myself to my own happiness. When I was properly taking care of myself by sleeping properly, working out regularly, preparing my own meals, and holding myself accountable to my schedule/workload, I was able to do more things than I ever could imagine! That doesn’t mean that I forgot about my loved ones, heck no! I could never do that! If anything I felt like I was better able to be there for the people I loved because I was so positive in my own life.

What I’m trying to say to all of you is this, since it’s a new year, put 2016 to bed. Stop blaming everyone else for the terrible things that may have happened last year. Accept that not everything in life went the way you hoped it would, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change the future. The future is always bright, and change is always good! It may not always seem like that at first, but good things will always find their way out of a seemingly terrible situation. The key is to not fall victim to the situations that happen in life, but to learn from them. You must hold onto your values, and the things that make you the most happy and proud to be the person you are. Take these things, and use them to guide you through sticky situations, and to help you find the positives in what may seem like a desperate situation.

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My first awkward workout selfie of the New Year!! LOL 


Day 3 of the 12 Days of Fitmas: Five Cost Free Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

The winter solstice is coming up next Wednesday December 21st, 2016, this means it will be the shortest day of sunlight for the entire year, also making it the darkest day of the year. It comes as no surprise to me, that we celebrate Christmas, and other Holidays during this time of year, as an attempt to bring some light, and happiness to one another on these cold and dark winter days. However, despite the celebrations, the lack of sunlight can have a dramatic effect on your energy levels and mood. Below is a list of 5 ways to lift your spirits this winter that won’t put a strain on your pocket-book! Because I’m sure the holiday season is costing you a pretty penny already 😉

  1. Brighten up your environment. Open up your shades during the day, and let as much natural light into your space as possible. If your desk at work does not get any direct sunlight, or if you don’t have access to a window, then on your lunch break sit by the window, or find ways to get to window through out your day. For example, on your way to the bathroom, or to a meeting, take a route that passes by areas that are well-lit with natural light. OR if all else fails, leave the office for lunch, go out for coffee, and get outside! Even though it may be cold and a little uninviting, you will feel so much better after getting a brief amount of fresh air and sunlight, trust me!
  2. Watch your diet. During this time of year, and well, winter in general, we tend to gravitate towards “comfort foods.” These types of foods are high in fat, and high in sugar. The reason why these foods are considered “comfort foods” is because not only do they taste awesome, the high amounts of carbohydrates provide temporary feelings of euphoria, and the high fat content gives you a sense of satiety or a satisfying feeling of fullness. Or, if you’ve had too much, you may feel a little sick or “stuffed.” I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have some holiday food here and there, but do not go overboard! It is so hard to keep yourself from overeating at this time of year! And sure, these comfort foods taste great, and feel great going down, that feeling is only temporary! If you want to feel great for a longer period of time, feed your body with nutrient dense foods! Sure, pie tastes great, but it doesn’t look great, and it doesn’t feel great if you’ve had too much. Also, if you overeat these comfort foods, you basically put yourself in a food coma, which makes it very difficult for you to be motivated to do anything else but lie on the couch. Not only will you feel “fat,” and “gross,” you will lower your energy levels, and lower your overall mood. So, my advice is to eat as healthy as possible, and keep the Christmas treats to a minimum!
  3. Exercise! I’ve written an article in the past about the effects of exercise on your mental health called How Fitness Continues to be a Beacon of Hope for Me . It talks about how fitness has helped me overcome times when I’ve felt very unhappy with how my life was going, and it can most definitely help you! Exercise, especially doing cardiovascular exercises can help you naturally create “happy chemicals” in your brain called endorphins. Actually exercise can be as powerful as taking an anti-depressant! Also, doing interval style training can help alleviate stress and anxiety. So, if this time of year has you feeling really stressed out and anxious? Then take a spin class, or do some interval training on some of the cardio equipment in the gym. Either way, you should get your body moving this time of year, especially when all you want to do is hibernate. Hibernating, and hiding from the world will only isolate you more, and have you feeling the blues even more so.
  4. Turn up the volume of your favorite music! Ever notice how Christmas music is always happy, hopeful, and cheerful? I don’t know about you, but I love to play Christmas music at this time of year. Not only does it get me into the Christmas spirit, it really does lift my mood. I just can’t help but feel happy when I listen to it. Especially when I’m doing Christmas things, like baking, or decorating the tree. However. I know that many people find Christmas music to be a little annoying, especially because it literally plays in every store, and almost every coffee shop that you walk into. So, if Christmas music doesn’t make you happy, play the type of music that does. Music has a tremendous ability to really affect people in a positive way!
  5. Volunteer, and help others! There is no better time, then the holiday season to give back to your community! Volunteering your time and helping out others really does feel good, and it can help you get a sense of purpose. When things seem so dark and lonely, it’s a good idea to reach out and give a helping hand. It may help you to realize you are not alone, things are not as dark as they seem, and you can really make a difference in someone’s life. It is so positive to be able to give back in some way to your community. Not only is it positive for the people who directly benefit from the work you’ve done, but for you as well. Everyone wants to feel like their lives mean something, and that they are needed in some way.

These are all my suggestions for helping you overcome those winter blues. Heck! You can apply all of these things to your life in general, and I can guarantee a higher quality of life! Go outside, get some more sunlight in your life! Eat well, and exercise! This will help you feel better both mentally and physically. You will have more energy throughout the day, and you will be a better version of yourself to conquer whatever life throws at you! Listen to music (that’s if you enjoy music) and dance, sing, do whatever makes you happy! I literally dance everyday and some point, music makes me so happy 🙂 And last but not least, give back! I know we all live busy lives, but it really does make you feel good from the inside out to be able to do something genuinely nice for someone for no reason other than it was a good thing to do. Merry Christmas guys! Don’t let the winter darkness get you down!

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Glade doesn’t necessarily make me feel joy but spending time with the people I love the most does ❤ Me and my bestie at the Toronto Christmas Market November 27th, 2016 


STRESS!! Don’t let it get the best of you!

Lately, I’ve been experiencing a high amount of stress, and I’ve been noticing that quite a few of my clients have been feeling the same way. The frustrating thing about high levels of stress, is that it usually perpetuates more stress. The frustration, at least for me, comes from the fact that I feel overwhelmed, and because of this, I find it difficult to properly take care of myself and do the things that make me feel good about myself. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, and I’m sure this is true for the vast majority of us, our worries and anxiety takes center stage, and our bodies, our minds, and our spirit take a back seat. It’s frustrating, because the worse we treat ourselves, the worse we feel. We start to feel guilty for not doing the things we know we should be doing, and we start to punish ourselves for it, and around we go again, our stress only climbs.

Now, there are a few of us that don’t really notice how badly our stress is effecting us until it’s gotten to a point where it is out of control. We tend to let the smaller things slide, but every time we let something slide, it starts to add up. What was once a “one time thing,” has quickly developed into a terrible habit. The saddest thing is, is that a lot of people have just assumed that this is their life. That stress is a part of life, and this is how it is.”I will forever have back pain because I work at a desk, and I’m old.”  Or, “I don’t have time to cook, so I eat out a lot.” Simple things like getting enough sleep, and feeding ourselves properly become a burden, when in reality all of the crap that we have piled on ourselves to manage is the real burden. Our stress is mostly self-inflicted. Sure, there are stressful things that happen to us that are out of our control, however, how we choose to deal with these situations is up to us. On the flip side, sometimes, our stress doesn’t always start in a negative place. Sometimes, we are having the best time! You’re always hanging out with your friends, going on adventures, doing whatever makes you happy, and before you know it, you feel a little lost.

I personally find that my stress, at least right now, is a combination of feeling a little lost, and putting a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to my business. I’m finding myself in this limbo of trying to balance my hectic summer social life, work/developing my business downtown, and moving into the city. I do not feel grounded at all, and I feel as though I’ve spread myself a little too thin. When I didn’t really have plans last weekend, except going to my friend’s cookout on Sunday, I was so happy! I finally got to do nothing, and it felt so great. I watched Netflix, went to the movies, did my laundry, and spent a good amount of time looking for places to live. I finally got to do what I wanted, which was really nice. Because it’s the summer, and I decided not to compete, I’ve been taking full advantage of all the hangouts with my friends. It’s been amazing! But at the same time, I have gone too far to the extreme, where hanging out with my friends has become a bit of a distraction from the things that I need to get done, and the things that really make me happy. I am not training as consistently as I like (I like to train at least 6 times a week), and I’m not eating as consistently as I would like (6 small meals a day). This makes me feel worse about the situation that I’ve put myself in, and because I’m not working out as much, or eating as well as I usually do, it’s becoming progressively more difficult to deal with my stress. It’s a vicious circle, where I’m not grounded and I’m overwhelmed, which stresses me out and demotivates me from working out, or meal prepping, this makes me feel guilty, which again, stresses me out!

That being said, I know what my problems are. I know what I do that makes my situation worse, and I know what I need to do to correct the issue. The key is to start off small. Because I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, and I’ve been busying myself with my friends, I haven’t been able to do the things that make me happy, like write this blog, or workout everyday, etc. So here I am writing a new piece for my blog and I packed a proper lunch for myself today too. Small wins! But I’m already starting to feel a bit better, and it all started by putting myself first this weekend, and realizing that the shenanigans need to stop. I need to get back to practicing what I preach, which is “YOU are the most IMPORTANT person in YOUR life, and YOU need to take care of yourself because no one else will.” Doing small things like this for yourself, help you feel better, and they motivate you to continue to do these things for yourself. Eventually, your stress and the mounting pile of crap that was so daunting before, starts to become more manageable. This is because when you stop taking care of yourself, your work starts to suffer. Actually all areas of your life start to suffer, and your stress only increases. You need to take care of yourself so that you can be the best version of yourself to conquer life. Don’t ever be a victim of circumstance, and let life conquer you. I say this all the time, I just needed a little personal reminder 😉

Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, ground yourself in the things that bring you happiness. Listen to your favorite artists, read the book you’ve been meaning to read, join a house league, or a group fitness class. Do these positive and productive things for yourself during your down time, instead of smoking weed, drinking, watching Netflix , or playing video games. You may think that these things bring you happiness, and sure, they’re fun, but in the long run, these things take more from you than they give. When you do positive and productive things in your spare time, like a dance class, not only doesn’t it bring up your mood, but you feel so much more accomplished than if you spent that time on the couch. Plus, when you choose to do something positive and productive in your spare time, like a hobby of some sort, it can actually turn into something more. It can help you meet new people, help you with your current career, or heck! It could become your new career.

Either way, when you’re feeling stress and overwhelmed the best things that you can do for yourself is as follows:

  • Participate in regular physical activity, whether it be a sport or going to the gym, either way it is one of the best ways to combat stress.
  • Secondly, you should socialize with friends and family, but don’t fall into the trap that I often fall into, where I would rather be with my friends having fun and avoiding the things that are stressing me out in the first place.
  • Try to relax! Do this through therapeutic breathing exercises, yoga, tai chi, meditation, or even a good massage!
  • Set time aside for hobbies, like crafts, reading, listening to music, baking, whatever brings you happiness
  • Lastly, and this may sound dumb, but stay positive! Laugh! Try your best to have a sense of humor about your situation, because crying isn’t going to change anything, so you might as well laugh! I would be lying if I said I never cried from stress or frustration, but I always try to cut it out quick. It only makes you feel sorry for yourself if you let it go on for too long, and having a victim mentality isn’t going to get you out from the pile of crap you put yourself under.

Handling Stress

Life can get really crazy sometimes, and sometimes we let things pile up, but lying down waving your white flag is going to get you no where fast. Slow down, take a breath, and re-focus. Take it one day at a time, plan out your day, set daily goals for yourself, and conquer them. When you need to take a break? Workout! Read a book! Do something positive and productive. Something that raises your spirits, and gives you the strength to keep going. And lastly, surround yourself with positive and productive people! People who push you and encourage you to be your absolute best. This is how you secure your overall happiness and success.