What is Self-Myofascial Release? What is Trigger Point Therapy? And how can it help me?

It’s Spring time, and THANK GOD it finally feels like it too! I think most of us can agree that we are pretty excited for summer, the warm weather, and all the activities that come with it! With the change in temperature, I’ve definitely noticed a lot more people at the gym lately. Seems like the city of Toronto is coming out of hibernation mode, and thinking about their summer bodies. As a trainer, this makes me super excited! However, I’ve also noticed that people don’t realize how immobile they really are. It seems as though that people don’t really understand how much muscle soreness, tightness, and inflexibility can really impact your performance at the gym, and therefore your results! I’m sure most people don’t have any intention of injuring themselves when they enter the gym to workout, but that’s exactly what can happen if you don’t properly rehab, and stretch the body as part of your workout routine.

Before we can get into these pain relieving techniques, we must discuss Fascia and what it is? This is the only way we can understand some of the pain we’re in, or lack of flexibility, and how to fix it. Fascia is connective tissue that is densely woven throughout the entire body like a spider web, or some sort of sweater. This connective tissue helps to provide a framework to support and protect every muscle group, and organ in the body. basically fascia connects and covers the entire body. It is a second protective layer beneath the skin, just like an orange has its orange rind or skin, and then the white layer under the rind that covers the entire fruit like a sweater. Furthermore, there are four different types of fascia tissue. The first type of fascia tissue is what I described earlier and it covers the entire body, it is the most well-known type of fascia, and that is Structural Fascia. The fibers of structural fascia have the ability to contract, relax, and stretch just like muscles do. They have the ability to pull the skeleton and surrounding structures out of alignment. Where the fibers of structural fascia cross in the body can jam and adhere joints including our vertebral column. The second type of fascia is very important to athletes, my clients, and muscle activity, it’s found in our muscles, and it is called Inter-Structural Fascia. It looks like a web of connective tissue inside of a muscle. The inter-structural fascia found in our muscles contract, relax, and stretch the muscle fibers. Inter-Structural Fascia also penetrates, and surrounds the brain, organs, cartilage, blood vessels, nerves, and literally every system in the body. Inter-Structural Fascia is very sticky. When the fascia sticks to other fascia fibers in the structure, the fibers of a single structure, as well as sticking two or more structures together, will interrupt the functions of these structures. Visceral Fascia is found in our midsection, it fills the “blank spaces” in the body and is highly protective. The fourth type of fascia is Spinal Fascia. Inter-Structural Fascia, Structural Fascia, and Visceral Fascia are all found in and around the spine. Spinal Fascia is very special because it is extremely dense and it wraps arond the spine like a thick straw. All the types of fascia link with the Spinal Fascia, and burst out from the straw encasement of the spine like sunbeams throughout the abdominal cavity. Knowing how to impact this deep fascia can dramatically aid in the treatment of back pain.

How does fascia affect me? Like I explained above, fascia covers and protects the entire body. It also has a very important role of supporting the musculoskeletal system by enabling us to perform various tasks like running, walking, and going from sitting to standing. Blood, nerves, and muscles are enveloped and penetrated by fascia, allowing your muscles and organs to glide smoothly, against one another. When you have fascial adhesions or distortions, this can cause poor blood flow, weaker nerve impulses, limited flexibility and mobility, and a host of other physical ailments. So much pain, tightness, and discomfort is unnecessarily caused by distorted fascia. Distortions in fascia can pull, torque, and compress the body. This will affect the body’s proper alignment. Fascial tension in the knee for example, can cause issues or tension in other parts of the body like the hips, or ankles. Very common conditions caused by fascial distortions are as follows: Plantar Fasciitis, IT Band Syndrome, and Frozen Shoulder. Fascia is protective by nature, and it will act like a band-aid to make up for injuries, and imbalances in the body. So if you injured yourself and it never healed properly, your fascia will adhere to itself and other structures to help protect you from further injury. However, when your fascia does this, it will significantly impact your body’s mobility, and the function of that muscle group. and/or joint. This is where muscle tightness, soreness, and pain come into play. This is why it is so, so important to rehab your body properly, to make sure that you are stretching, and massaging your body to help break up some of the fascia distortions, and adhesions to allow for properly movement bodily functions.

What is Myofascial release? It is a safe and effective hands on technique where you apply gentle sustained pressure into the myofascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion. This gentle pressure, applied slowly will allow the fascia to elongate. A lot of times when you are performing myofascial release techniques on yourself, where you find the most pain is where there is an adhesion in the fascial tissue. It will feel like a ball or knot in your muscle tissue. Unfortunately, this type of muscle pain, and tightness does not show up on standard medical texts like x-rays, CAT scans and so on. This is why hands on treatment is so important. I would strongly recommend that you ask someone who has experience in this type of therapy to help you with your pain. Normally they will give you self-myofasical techniques so that you can continue to improve your pain, and mobility issues. Myofascial release is PAINFUL!!! Keep that in mind, but it is highly effective. If you don’t push yourself through the pain, the fascial adhesions will just get worse, and so will your pain, and mobility. In addition, your posture, and overall performance will be effected as well.

When you’re performing myofascial release techniques like foam rolling, or trigger point therapy, they are normally recommended for post workout recovery or for non-training days. The foam roller is great for targeting larger muscle groups, whereas the lacrosse ball is great for smaller areas of pain of trigger points. Trigger points are also known as myofascial points. These spots are found in specific areas on a muscle and the surrounding tissue, and they are the most common sources of referred pain. This basically means that when the trigger point is activated, pain is usually felt somewhere else in the body. Generally, when you use the lacrosse ball to apply pressure to a trigger point, the pressure may be painful at first, but eventually the pain will be alleviated and the muscles relaxed. Lacrosse balls are great to use on your buttocks, shoulders, calves, feet, and hips. The small surface area of the ball allows for the user to really get deep inside the muscle tissue, and pinpoint the areas of pain. Again, I would ask someone who has experience in using a lacrosse ball to relieve pain to help show you some of these pain relieving techniques.

As for foam rolling? There are various types of foam rollers out there. I have a Grid Foam Roller, the shorter one so I can easily travel with it for my clients. I personally like the Grid Foam Roller because you can get various densities, basically you can choose how hard the foam roller is. The harder the foam roller, the deeper the massage. Depending on how tight or how much pain you’re feeling will determine how hard a foam roller your should be using. If you are quite immobile, and tight, then a softer foam roller would be a good start. Once you start to release some of the tension in your muscles, you can then graduate to harder rollers. In addition, the grid has both rigid and smooth surfaces. Again, if you are in quite a bit of pain, I would use the smoother side to massage your muscles. Once you have relieved some of the tension, you can then graduate to the ridges to get deeper into the muscle tissue. Lastly, a foam roller that has a grid on it will help to better adhere to the skin, and this will give you better results. Please, when performing self-myofascial release, you should be holding the position, and massaging the entire area for at least 2 minutes to give your body enough time to relax and relieve tension. Areas within that muscle group that are very painful should be focused on for at least 30-45 seconds to notice any significant change. However, this all depends on your level of pain. You don’t want to cause further harm, but you do want to give your body the opportunity to relieve itself of pain, and this will take some mind over matter. Myofascial release “hurts so good,” as I like to tell my clients. It is painful but at the same time it feels good. I know that sounds weird but it’s true. It’s the same when you get a deep tissue massage, it can be painful but also so relaxing. In addition, just like deep tissue massage, performing myofascial release can have you feeling sore the next day. This is normal. Take a rest day, and then try it again until you see a significant improvement in your mobility and pain.

It is extremely important to work on your mobility and pain as a supplement to your workouts in the gym. For athletes, therapy is so important to keeping them in tip-top shape. Just like athletes, we tend to do a lot of repetitive movement in our day-to-day lives. This type of trauma to our muscles and fascia system can cause permanent damage if left untreated. Sure, it’s nice to want a beach bod, but it’s not ever going to be possible if you are not able to perform proper movement patterns. If you are unable to properly perform a squat because of lack of mobility, how are you supposed to reap the benefits?! It’s just not possible! Don’t think that you can just walk into the gym and do any sort of workout if you don’t have the proper tools. What do I mean by proper tools? I mean proper movement patterns. How do you know if you move properly? Ask a professional!!!! Learn what you’re doing wrong and how to fix it! Personal trainers with knowledge and experience, physiotherapists, athletic therapists, are all good options to learn how to perform proper movement patterns, and also learn how to improve, or maintain these patterns through therapy. Trigger Point Therapy, and Myofascial Release techniques will not only relieve your body of aches and pains, it will help to give you the right tools to achieve your goals in the gym.

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Foam Roller and Lacrosse Ball, two necessary evils! 


No gym? No problem! Easy at home workouts for Beginners

I am very much aware that not everyone is able to afford a gym membership. Even though there are discounted gyms in Canada like “Fit for Less,” or at your local community centres, these costs still might be too much for some of us to take on. Also, buying your own equipment to make a home gym can be costly as well. So, I’ve decided to write a piece about getting active for free!!

First things first, I think you should get outside of your house. Spring is ALMOST here!!! Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, BUT if my grandparent’s can go for a walk every day (minus when it is super icy out, Nonna has a walker) then you can too! Or you can go and walk around the mall and do a few laps, just leave your purse in the car. However, walking outside is in my opinion a better choice. Not only can you get a breath of fresh air, but you can explore your neighborhood and get to know your community a whole lot better. If you’re a beginner going for a brisk walk everyday is an easy way to get more active, and it doesn’t cost you a thing! Especially if, you’ve never worked out in your life, OR if you have any injuries/medical issues, walking is a very low impact form of cardiovascular exercise. Plus the more you go out for walks, the farther you’ll be able to walk without getting tired. Think of how much of the city you’ll see! Also, walking is great to do with a friend. You’ll both get some exercise, and you’ll have plenty of time to catch up and talk about anything under the sun. Plus you can both keep each other motivated to go on your daily walks! Just make sure that you’re not always walking to your local Tim Hortin’s or any other restaurant because that defeats the whole purpose.

Now that you’ve started walking everyday, and getting some cardiovascular exercise into your routine, here is a simple at home workout that you can do at home and it requires absolutely no equipment! It is also a workout for those of you who are truly beginner, the vast majority of the workout is made to engage your posterior chain and correct posture!! Complete the prescribed number of repetitions for each exercise, and then move on to the next one. Please do a total of three rounds of the entire routine with as little rest as possible!

Exercise 1: Body weight squat. Do a total of 15 reps! Below is my first ever video tutorial on how to properly do a squat! Please watch before doing this circuit!

Exercise 2: Incline push-up. Do a total of 15 reps. You can place your hands on a bench, ottoman, sturdy coffee table, or you can even use a staircase to assist you with your push-ups. The higher the incline, the easier the push-up is. If you find it too difficult to perform a proper push-up (where your spine is neutral/back is straight, and you can lower your body down completely without breaking form) then you can even use the wall to start. Also, as you can see in the photo below, I have set my feet wide for my bench push-up, this also makes your body more stable and therefore makes the exercise a little bit easier. If you don’t need to modify the push-up at all, then you can perform the exercise from the floor.

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Exercise 3: Plank, hold for 30 seconds. Please watch this video that I made on the plank. It will give you some ideas on how to make this exercise a bit more challenging if need be, or how to modify it (I called it a regression in my video) if it’s too tough to hold up your own body weight for the full 30 seconds.

Exercise 4: Side Plank, hold each side for 30 seconds. In the photo below I am doing a modified plank, please do a modified side plank if you are not able to properly hold your own body weight without rotating your hips to the back. Also, please make sure that your elbow is directly under your shoulder! If it’s not please correct it, and again, if it’s too hard to hold a side plank with your legs extended straight, and your shoulder in the right place, then do a modified side plank!

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My face is red not from the exercise lol but from teaching two group fitness classes and my own personal workout before hand! 

Exercise 5: Floor Y-T-I raises. Perform 12 reps of each exercises, one right after the other without any rest in between. These exercises help to engage your muscles in your upper back, and they help to stabilize and strengthen the shoulder joint as well! In the photos below, you will see that I have my chest slightly off the ground. This is an advanced version of the exercise and should only be done if you don’t experience any back pain while doing it. If you are going to lift your chest while performing this exercise, please exhale as you lift your chest, and draw your navel in towards your spine to properly engage your abdominal muscles. Also, please make sure that your thumbs are always pointed up towards the sky during these exercises!

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First position of the Y raise. Thumbs are up and my palms are facing one another. 

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Second position of the Y raise 

 

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First half of the T raise 

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The second half of the T raise 

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First half of the I raise 

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Second half of the I raise 

And that’s it guys! Do this circuit three times with as little rest as possible in between exercises. I would perform this circuit three times a week, with a daily brisk 30 minute minimum walk a day. This is a great way to begin a resistance training program at home that requires absolutely no equipment. Stayed tuned! I will definitely post a new routine to do at home in the near future! Please let me know if you’ve tried this workout, and how it’s going?!

 


I want to exercise, but where do I start?

When I was a kid, I wasn’t super athletic. I was actually such a girly girl, a chubby princess if you will. I did do skating lessons, and before things got serious with figure skating, I quit that to pursue dance. I never danced competitively, and looking back now I wish I did. I think I would have done well in competitive dance, but hindsight is always 20/20. My point is, I wasn’t that great at gym class in elementary school, and because of this I only took gym in grade 9 in high school. I did do competitive cheerleading for a year in high school and loved it! But I wasn’t that experienced at tumbling and therefore not that good of a cheerleader. To be quite honest, I was much better at dancing, and putting on a show. This is why I believe that if I were to be in competitive dance I would have a much stronger skill set to accompany my talent for dancing, and my love for the stage.

It wasn’t until my second year of university that I discovered fitness. After my first year of university, where I wasn’t dancing, I wasn’t cheerleading, and the gym scared me because I never used that type of equipment before, I had gained the torturous “freshman fifteen.” It was terrible. I had dedicated my first year of university to school, a new boyfriend, and partying. Basically everything else except for myself. When I looked in the mirror at the beginning of second year, I couldn’t recognize myself! I was not happy. This was not the person I wanted to be, and so I discovered the Group Fitness Classes at Laurier’s athletic complex. I loved these classes and I made a point to go to a class every single day. I would do a cardio class one day, then a weight training class the next. I wold do this from Monday-Friday and most of the time on Saturdays as well. Attending Group Fitness classes, made me fall in love with health and fitness. And most importantly, it helped me to fall in love with myself again. Group Fitness helped me get back into shape in my second year, and then some! Once I started to see results, I started to feel empowerment of fitness. I felt great, and I looked better than I ever have before! Since I was exercising regularly, I was sleeping better, and I really started to take a vested interest in nutrition. It was in second year, that I realized the importance of taking care of yourself, and how much better you perform in the rest of your life when you feel at your best.

After second year, I loved fitness so much, I decided to become a Group Fitness Instructor myself and the rest is history! From there, I went on to become the Group Fitness Coordinator for two years at the university’s athletic complex, and then into personal training and so on. I personally think that Group Fitness is a great gateway drug to other types of fitness. I think that it can be a good way for people to get comfortable with working out, and once they feel comfortable in the realm of fitness, they can then start to develop a more regimented training regime. The gym can be a very intimidating place for a lot of people! I mean I remember how intimidated I was in my first year of university walking into the school gym, but I felt at home in the group fitness studio. With group fitness it’s a very social environment. You can bring your friends to help make the whole experience that much more comfortable and fun! There’s usually some upbeat music, and the best thing is, you don’t have to think about your workout! A fun, safe, and effective workout is already planned out for you!

Group Fitness is excellent for beginners, for people who don’t exercise regularly to start moving. It’s relatively safe (unless you’re doing something more complicated like Cross Fit) but generally speaking most group fitness classes are cardio based with relatively light weights. I think Group Fitness is great to get people into the gym, and hopefully to come on a regular basis. I don’t think that people should stay forever in the realm of group fitness. It is very important to venture off and to learn how to train properly! And what I mean by that is this: first of all you don’t get too much attention in a group fitness class and therefore will not be able to properly perfect your form. Secondly, it is difficult to have a focused training regime when taking group fitness classes because these classes aren’t tailored to you, and they may be different from class to class. Group Fitness is great to get people exercising, but once you’ve been exercises regularly, it is important to start training. You must not develop a program for yourself to really focus your workouts, and to measure your success. Training gives you a set timeline, and goals. Everything you do in the gym once you’ve started training has a purpose to it, and you’re no longer exercising for the sake of exercising. This is where a personal trainer like myself, or a coach comes into play. No matter if you’re experience in the gym or not, a trainer can really help to bring your workouts to the next level. They can help you perfect your technique, and who doesn’t need a good spot in the gym right? But nevertheless, group fitness is how I got my eyes opened to the world of fitness. It was my gateway drug, and I think it could be yours too! There’s so many types of classes out there, that I’m sure you can find something that peaks your interest and gets you moving!

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Some of the bikes I use in my Spin Class at Bayer on Tuesdays 🙂 


What does it mean to be fat?

What does it mean to be fat? Well, it can actually mean a lot of things depending on who you ask, or who you’re referring to as fat. Being “fat” comes with a boatload of negative connotations that we probably didn’t even realize. However, the point of this article is to call attention to the fact that not many of us, or maybe too many of us know what it’s like to be fat but it’s not something we openly discuss in public. In fact, being “fat,” or clinically obese isn’t generally viewed as a medical condition in society, but mostly as a result of bad habits, and laziness. When in fact, it is a medical condition.

The definition of obesity from the Webster’s Medical Dictionary is as follows, “a condition that is characterized by excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body and that in an adult is typically indicated by a body mass index of 30 or greater.” Below is a photo of the Body Mass Index Chart for both men and women. Please be informed that this is NOT necessarily the best way to tell if you are at a healthy weight, because it is only a ratio between your height and weight. It does not take into account your body fat percentage, which is a better way of knowing how much of your body is composed of fat. If you are a bodybuilder for example, or an athlete with a large amount of muscle, your BMI would read high because you would weigh heavier due to your muscle mass.

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Below is a chart showing you the ranges of body fat percentages for men and women. This will give you a better idea of how much of your body is composed of fatty tissue, and how healthy your body fat percentage is.

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One of the better ways to measure your body fat, that isn’t too expensive is to use calibers. If you do plan on using calibers, please have someone who has experience to help you measure your body fat. Especially, because you won’t be able to measure the skin folds on your back. Calibers do not measure your body fat directly, they are used to administer the “pinch test,” which takes measurements of skin folds on several points on the body. That information is then plugged into a mathematical formula that will give you, your body fat percentage. The accuracy of this test depends on the experience of the person administering the test, and the formula that they use to calculate your body fat. There is more than one formula to measure your body fat and it varies for each person depending on age, gender, race, and fitness level.

So, if you are really curious about your body fat percentage, please ask a fitness professional, or doctor to help you figure it out. There are picture charts to help you compare your body to the pictures to get an idea of where your body fat might be, BUT to make things simpler, I will describe to you what different body fat percentages look like. For example, I am a female between the ages of 26-30 years old. For both of my fitness competitions, I was at a body fat percentage between 11-15%. This is very lean, and a vast majority of female body builders at all levels are around this body fat percentage when they are on stage. It is very difficult for your body to maintain this body fat percentage for females for a long period of time. An ideal body fat percentage for my age would be between 20-24%

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Me backstage at my first show on November 8th 2014 

 

 

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Me backstage at my second show October 10th 2015

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December 6th 2015, this is me going to a Christmas party sitting in the ideal body fat range between 19-24% 

 

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Me and my friend Jordan walking into the reception of our best friend’s wedding this past August 27th 2016. Here I am in the “average” body fat percentage around 26% and definitely not my happy place. 

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A more recent photo of me January 7th 2017 where I’ve gotten my body fat percentage down around 24% my goal is to get closer to 20% 

It was hard finding recent full body photos of myself to compare body fat percentages with you guys because I’ve stopped taking many selfies of myself since I stopped competing! However, I wanted to give you guys a good idea of what different body fat percentages can look on a person. A body fat percentage of 11-15% can look a lot different on someone depending on how tall they are, how much muscle they have and so on. The more muscle you have when being that lean the “healthier” you’ll look, and the more shapely your body will look. However, if you are at that body fat percentage, without much muscle, you will actually look quite sickly. The same goes for the “average” body fat percentages for women. If you have a body fat percentage of 26% and your around my age, depending on your height, you could look a lot different from me in the photo above. So, using photos of people’s body’s to compare body fat is again NOT an accurate way to find out how “fat” you are.

The sad thing is, this is how we all measure our bodies. We compare them to others, and determine whether we are fat, skinny, fit, beautiful, ugly etc. I think a lot of women care about their body fat percentages not because of their health but because they don’t want to be considered fat! And even if they are in the average, or above average range, many are in denial of how “fat” they really are! I mean, I’m sure they know they’re not thin, but they would never consider themselves to be obese. In my opinion, this is because many of us see someone who is obese as someone who weighs an extraordinary amount of weight, like the people you would see on My 600 lb life on TLC. And it’s not just women who make these sorts of assumptions, men share the same sort of denial, and men have become much more critical of their bodies. I wouldn’t say that it is to the same degree as women, but I definitely think younger generations of men are facing higher and higher standards of beauty and masculinity. The movie Fight Club addresses this issue quite well, the question of masculinity and beauty, but that’s another article.

There are so many articles talking about our unrealistic beauty standards and how they affect women, and men negatively. How it creates a whole bunch of body issues, eating disorders, suicides, and the list goes on. But what I want to address in this article is this aversion we have to being labeled FAT, and why that is? Because in reality many, many people fall into the average, leaning towards above average body fat percentage. I don’t think people are afraid to refer to themselves as fat, because people do it all the time, even if they are completely healthy, people will call themselves fat, because there is someone else out there thinner, and better looking than them, or because they no longer have the body they used to have. When in reality they probably picked the body they used to have apart as well. It seems as though many of us have a hard time accepting our bodies at all. However, it can be deeply hurtful when someone else refers to you as fat. It’s one thing to call yourself fat, but when someone else does, it either confirms what you already know which sucks, or it can have you questioning your self-worth. Because let’s face it being thin and fit is considered good and beautiful, and being fat is still considered ugly and bad. The thing is though, calling people fat, ugly, lazy, stupid, because they happen to weigh “above average,” or have a higher than “normal” body fat percentage, doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t make you a better person, it doesn’t change the person you’re calling names, and it certainly doesn’t fix the problem of obesity in our society.

I didn’t realize until recently how much our society discriminates against people who are over weight and obese. I did not realize the amount of obstacles these people face on a regular basis. I had an idea, but I really didn’t know how much prejudice there was against people who are fat, until I watched a video that my friend had shared with me that her company had made discussing what it’s like to live in the shoes of someone who is clinically diagnosed with obesity. Besides the obvious stares, name calling, and judgement that they face everyday, there are a bunch of physical barriers that they face that aren’t as obvious as you would think. For example, furniture is made for the “average” person. There are a lot of chairs that aren’t wide enough, or, are not able to hold up weight over 230 lbs. I take for granted the body that I have, because I never have to worry about seating when I go to a show, restaurant, or public space, because I have no problems fitting into chairs and such. Basically, we haven’t included a large section of people in the designs for the spaces that we live in. Ignoring a group of people, and treating them as if they are not important, almost as if they are no longer human, will not encourage positive change in any way. If we want to help someone who is suffering from obesity, we must engage with them in a positive manner. We must include them and their needs, so that we can help improve their quality of life.

As a fitness professional, I realized that I cannot properly help my obese clients if I am judging them based on their body. None of us will be able to help them if we are already making assumptions about how they got that body in the first place. In reality people who are considered fat are actually hyper aware of their own bodies, because they are told on a constant basis that they don’t belong. Not necessarily directly, but definitely indirectly, through the design of our spaces, furniture, clothing, our media, and basically our society as a whole does not value someone who is “fat.” That is why no one really wants to be “fat.” Not because it is ugly, or that people hate their bodies, because there are many overweight people who are perfectly content with their bodies, but nobody wants to be considered fat, because nobody wants to be ugly, or unwanted. Everyone wants to feel like they matter, and that they belong. Speaking as a fitness professional, it is important that we treat people who are overweight as people, who matter, and who have feelings. They were not born obese, but circumstances whether they be health related, or not, have led them to obesity and it is not in our right to judge these people. Especially if we know nothing about them.

Obesity is a medical condition, and it affects many people in our society, and if we ever want to improve our quality of life, we must first stop with the prejudice. We must try to accommodate these people more in our society, not just in fashion, or media, but in all parts of everyday life. Throwing diet pills, nutritional facts, and telling them to get off their “lazy butts,” is not going to solve the problem of obesity, because that just perpetuates hate, and ignorance. If you truly want to help someone who is overweight, first get to know them, and then ask them what it is that they need to be successful. You may be surprised at how much they know about diet and exercise! Once you know what it is they need, you can then have a better chance of helping them succeed, but they MUST be included in the process. Don’t just assume what they need based on the fact that they are fat, because they are more than just a “fat person.” Anyway, my point, was that we don’t really consider what it must be like to be a fat person in our society. We don’t really take the time to consider their wants, needs, and feelings at all. We tend to disregard them all together or punish them for the way that they are. Instead, we should do our best to include all types of people from all shapes and sizes. As cheesy as it sounds, we must include everyone into the realm of fitness. People who are overweight should not feel as if they don’t belong in the gym, and making fun of people who are working out because of their size is disgusting to me and I know it happens all the time. But since when is it a crime for someone to go hard at the gym? Even if they happen to be overweight? Why are we discouraging people from doing something positive with their lives? It’s not fair to ridicule someone for their size, and then make them feel as if they don’t belong in environments where they can make a positive impact on their health. If we want to have a healthier society, then we must stop making people who are overweight feel as if they don’t belong.


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 2 of the Twelve Days of Fitmas: How Proper Rest Between Sets Can Improve Your Performance In The Gym

Merry Fitmas guys! So, I’ve been personal training for a few years now, and one thing that I’ve noticed about my clients is that they will either take full advantage of their rest times and even try to extend them by distracting me with conversation, OR after about 20 seconds of rest they think they’re ready to jump right back into the exercise as if them resting is wasting time when they could be burning more calories. With this article, I plan to explain the importance of resting properly between sets and how it can actually improve your performance in the gym!

When I train on my own, I always time my rest in between my sets. That way, I’m not wasting time, and I’m staying on pace with my workout. It also allows me to have consistent rest in between my sets, so that I can better keep track of how I’m improving. With proper rest, your body should be able to perform the exercise with the correct form to the same degree of strength or better. If not? Then you may need to increase your rest time in between sets, or start to drop down your weights. Either way, by keeping track of not only the weights you use, but the amount of time it takes you to recover in between sets, is a good way to see how much your body’s strength and endurance is improving.

Having proper rest in between sets is even more important when you’re doing a strength based workout. So when you’re doing power lifting, doing heavy olympic lifts, or doing heavy sets of 3-5 reps trying to increase your overall strength. It is important to make sure your body is getting adequate rest so that you can avoid any potential injury. When you are doing a heavy lift, it requires a ton of mental and physical strength to be able to do it, and performing the exercise itself is very taxing on the body. That is why you may often see these big guys or athletic women in the gym, loading the bar with heavy weights, performing the exercises for 3-5 reps and then resting for what seems to be a long time. Now, I’m sure some of these patrons of the gym are taking way too long of a rest time in between sets, but for some of these heavy lifts you may actually need about 2, maybe even 3 minutes of rest depending on the person. Obviously the more athletic the individual, the faster they will be able to recover from the exercise, but if it is a style of training that you have never done before, or haven’t done in a while, it may take you a little longer to regain the strength to perform the exercise again properly.

Rest is also very important when you are training as a beginner, and it’s funny, because it is the beginners that I see either resting too much and not actually training, or they are not resting enough and forcing their body to do movements they don’t quite understand how to perform properly. It is mostly men who do the latter, and women who rest too much, at least in my own personal experience. As a beginner to the gym, it is very important to take the time to learn how to perform the basic movements properly, like a plank, squat, lunge, row, push up and so on. Once you have the basics of these movements, then you can begin to add-on accessory work, and variations to these movements. However, when you are learning these movements, you want to start off with using mostly your own bodyweight, taking the time to slow the exercise down. Let your body understand how it should feel like when you do it properly (have someone help you with this who has more experience in the gym, or professional help). Then have adequate rest in between your sets so that you are not tiring yourself out too much, that you start to forget and loose the proper form you’ve been working so hard on trying to achieve. You need to give yourself enough rest so that 1) you’re not tiring yourself out, loosing form, and therefore setting yourself up for potential injury, and 2) you are giving yourself enough rest so that you are not too tired to focus on the following set, therefore giving you a greater chance of creating muscle memory and learning how to do it on your own properly.

There are styles of training out there that don’t require a lot of rest, or they have “active rest periods.” These are perfectly fine, and are mostly circuit style training, and cardio training. These types of training don’t allow you to lift weights that are super heavy because you are not giving your body enough time to recover to be able to continuously do heavy sets. Instead, these styles of training are meant to keep your heart rate up, and get you nice and sweaty. These are great for people who want to improve their cardiovascular endurance, it’s great to incorporate into a weight loss training routine, or to incorporate into the days where you are on a time crunch. Even with these types of training, you should still time your rest periods, even if they are very short. That way, you are still getting consistent rest in between your sets, and you are not allowing yourself to rest too long, therefore, bringing your heart rate down too much. Obviously, if you are feeling sick, or you can no longer perform the movements properly, you should extend your rests, or modify your exercises. But at the end of the day, you should be using whatever rest time you have effectively. Use it to take a sip of water, to towel off quickly, or even to just regulate your breathing so you don’t tire yourself out too quickly. Rest is very important and it shouldn’t be wasted on social media. Make sure you are taking proper rest between sets, time them so that you are not taking too long of a rest, and record the amount of rest it takes for you to be able to perform the same exercise again properly. Obviously you may start to fail at the exercise but if it takes you about 40 seconds to be able to do the exercise for the majority of the sets you do, even if you fail on the last few reps of the last two sets, eventually you will be able to do it without failing with the same amount of rest. If you keep the rest consistent you will eventually be able to up the weights you’re using, with the same rest times! But you will never actually know this, if you are not resting properly, or timing and recording it as well. Rest, along with tracking the weight you use is a great way to measure your improvements at the gym.

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Why do I need a trainer?

I’ve been a personal trainer now for over 3 years, and one question that I’ve been asked many times has been, “Why would a personal trainer need a trainer?” This is a very tricky question because I know why most people are asking this question. It’s mostly because they believe that if you are a personal trainer you should walk the talk, and should be able to motivate themselves to workout on their own. This is true. I definitely believe that if you claim to be a personal trainer, your own personal fitness speaks volumes about your business, and how you are as a trainer. This is because most people who are looking for a trainer or a coach, are looking for someone who they aspire to be like. If you are a personal trainer or coach, you are a leader in the gym, and people expect you to act as such. Members are always watching you because they are looking to you as an example. So, if you are not working out regularly and eating properly yourself, then I don’t think you have any right trying to tell other people what they should be doing to reach their fitness goals. Do not claim to be a fitness expert if you never apply it to yourself. That being said, I do honestly believe that everyone, and this includes personal trainers, could benefit from receiving training or coaching from someone else.

Why? Well first of all, most trainers have an expertise or a niche within the fitness industry. It takes years of experience and practice to learn the various training techniques that exists. And even still, there is still plenty that trainers can learn from their peers. I have a coach, and I’ve been working with him for over a year and a half. Not only has my own personal fitness improved greatly, but I’ve learned so much about bodybuilding, dieting, and growing my own business. I think everyone can benefit from a coach or a trainer, I mean professional athletes have several different trainers, why would you think that you don’t need one? Do you know everything there is to know about weight training? Are you a Guru in the gym? Probably not… Especially if you do want to learn about a particular style of training, or a particular sport like Olympic Weight Lifting or Bodybuilding for example. It is a good idea to get a coach, that way you can learn from someone who has experience in the sport, and if you want to compete you will have a much better chance then if you tried to do it on your own. Plus it’s an excellent opportunity for you to find yourself a mentor within the industry. Someone who you look up to and aspire to be like.

Even if you weren’t trying out a new sport, or competing in anything. It is still a good idea to get a trainer to teach you the basics. You would be surprised how much your fitness will improve once you learn how to properly engage the right muscles. I’ve seen way too many people attempt exercises with horrible form. This will only lead to injury. Why not get some helpful advice from an experienced trainer? No matter who you think you are, I’m sure you would learn something from the experience. Plus your fitness can only improve with the help of an experienced trainer, and your commitment. Even on the flip side, I’ve seen people (mostly ladies) out of fear, they reach for very low weights, or they do not even attempt to get full range of motion in the exercise. Now their fear may come from various places, like a fear of injury, a fear of becoming too masculine, gaining too much muscle and looking bulky. There are so many myths and fears surrounding the gym. The gym can be a very intimidating place for someone who has very little experience weight training. This is why a trainer is so important! They can help to relieve some of your fears, and give you confidence in the gym. Their main job is to teach you how to properly exercise, and to help you reach your fitness goals.

Most people HATE working out, but it’s mostly because they have no idea what they’re doing. It is very demotivating to try and do something that you’re not very good at, or that you don’t know very much about. This is why having a trainer is so important. So many people flock to the gym in January with their new years resolutions, and that’s great! However, the problem is, is that many of these people have goals, but they have absolutely no real plan on how to reach these goals. So they go to the gym, highly motivated at first, and they do whatever they think they should do to get the body they want and then they leave. After a few weeks, they aren’t really seeing any results, and by the end of January more than half of these resolutioners have given up… Why?!? I know that training is not always affordable, but it is so worth the money. I’m obviously biased because I am a trainer. However, why do you keep wasting money on gym memberships if you have no idea what you’re supposed to do while you’re there? Personal training is a worthy investment because ultimately you are investing in yourself. You are your greatest asset in life, and if you want to prosper in your life you need to positively invest in yourself. You need to educate yourself, nourish yourself, and you need to exercise. Personal training does more than help you in the gym, just like sports for kids, there are many transferable skills that you can learn from your coach in the weight room. Personal training is an investment that literally anyone can benefit from. We all have so much potential for personal growth, but we are more likely to reach our fullest potential through the guidance of someone else.


Why going to the gym simply isn’t enough…

Last week I was training shoulders, and the facility I was training in had their cable machines facing the group fitness studio. The entire time that I was facing the group fitness studio, which was about 20 or so minutes tops, there was a girl in the studio laying on her stomach playing on her phone. She obviously had no real plans of working out, but she went through the trouble of changing into her gym clothes anyway… Sound familiar?

Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when you’ll be resting in between sets for over a minute, and maybe during that time you’ll be answering a text or something. But there should be no reason why you would be on the phone playing around for 20 minutes if you really had the intention of getting a solid workout in, right? Now this is a very obvious form of wasted time at the gym, and I don’t need to further explain how that is… However, in this post I will discuss how not following a specific training program in the gym is just as much of a waste of time as sitting around texting. I have come across way too many people in the gym who have no real idea what they’re doing! I’m not just talking about how people mis-use equipment because that’s another story, but how so many people come into the gym with no real plan of action. A lot of people say that they’re just “gonna do what they feel like,” or they may know what body part they want to do, but they choose the exercises on a whim, and they guess at how many reps they should perform, and how much weight is appropriate. The list goes on… Yet they wonder why they’re not seeing results? And because they’re not getting very far with their fitness, they slowly stop showing up and the gym. Eventually their gym key fob is a relic that never gets used. It’s sad really, because this could all be avoided if they put some thought behind their workouts before hand.

Think about it! How are you supposed to get anywhere with your fitness goals if you don’t have a plan of action, or a recipe to follow to get you there? If you were trying to bake a chocolate cake, but you have no culinary schooling, you’re not a pastry chef, what is the likely hood of you being able to make this cake without any sort of recipe or direction? You are most likely going to fail…The same is true with your fitness goals. I mean, I’m a personal trainer, and competitive bodybuilder, and I ALWAYS have my training split printed out and on hand EVERY SINGLE TIME I GO TO THE GYM!! I like having it on paper rather than staring at my phone trying to read it. I print out two copies, I keep one at home and one in my gym bag just in case I lose one. I always know what I’m doing in the gym, how many reps to do, what weights to use, and so on. Having a plan, having a strong purpose every time you step into the gym, will only make your goals that much more realistic. How do you think I could go from 8th place Bikini to 2nd place Figure in 11 months? How do you think I was so successful with my reverse diet from my last show? I had a well thought out plan to follow. I had clear direction, and because of this, I was able to be consistent with my diet and workouts. What does this all spell? Success. In order to be successful you need to have a purpose, or a plan, and then you need to be consistent in executing this plan.

Now, this may seem very overwhelming, and you may be thinking, well how the heck do I figure out what to do in the gym? Well first of all, this is when a trainer or coach definitely comes in handy. They can teach you a lot about training, how to workout in a way that is specific to your goals, and ultimately they will give you a plan to follow so that you can be consistent in the gym so you can see results. Everybody wants to see results, and everybody wants to be successful. This is why it is so important to seek help, when you really don’t know how to be successful. Even if you have an idea of how to train, getting a coach will only take you to the next level. I’m a trainer with an athletic background and I still have a coach. Sydney Crosby has several coaches and trainers… So if you somehow think you’re above getting training from someone, even in the short-term, you couldn’t be more wrong.

However, I do understand that training is expensive. So, here is my suggestion. Attend small group training sessions, or group fitness classes. When I first got into fitness, way back in my second year of university, I was very intimidated by the gym. I had never really worked out with gym equipment before. I was a dancer, cheerleader, and before that I did skating. I was more comfortable in the studio, than in the regular gym. So, I would schedule a group fitness class into my school schedule every day. Monday- Friday I did a fitness class, and most Saturdays as well. This is how I lost my “freshman 15” and basically how I caught the fitness bug. This is where it all began for me. When I would schedule the fitness classes, I would try to alternate a sculpt or muscle class with a cardio class. I tried my best to create some sort of balance in my schedule. There was a method behind my madness, don’t just pick random classes to go to, try to create some consistency in your training. That way you can actually measure whether or not you’re improving. If you go to the same classes every week, your workouts will be fairly consistent, and you can therefore measure your results. There are also bootcamp programs, and small group training programs run by different trainers that will also help to give you some motivation and consistency in your workouts. Usually these programs are smaller than typical group fitness classes, and therefore you will get a lot more focus from the trainer to make sure that you’re executing the exercises properly.

If classes really aren’t your thing, you can find programs in books, and online. The problem with that is, is that you have no one really teaching you how to perform the exercises. You also don’t have anyone to hold you accountable. When you attend group fitness classes or small group training classes, you create relationships with other people, and those people motivate you to keep showing up. That’s the beauty behind the classes, there’s a sense of comradery. And well, there’s someone there to make sure you don’t kill yourself! If you’re not experienced in the gym, your chances of being successful without some guidance from a trainer, or a class instructor are slim to none. You must have a plan, you must have consistency in your workouts. The better the plan, the better chances of success. Stop wasting your time “doing what you feel like” in the gym, what you “feel like” probably isn’t what you need to be successful in your fitness goals. Don’t throw your new found resolutions down the toilet just yet! Get a plan, and stick to it!

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A photo of me battling for first place at my last show… I’m in the middle 😉 Excited to hit the stage again this summer for Miami Beach and Provincials!