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:
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.
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.
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…
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!
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:
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!
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.
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! 😉
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!
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.
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.
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 ❤
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.
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!
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!
First position of the Y raise. Thumbs are up and my palms are facing one another.
Second position of the Y raise
First half of the T raise
The second half of the T raise
First half of the I raise
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?!
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!
Some of the bikes I use in my Spin Class at Bayer on Tuesdays 🙂
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.
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.
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%
Me backstage at my first show on November 8th 2014
Me backstage at my second show October 10th 2015
December 6th 2015, this is me going to a Christmas party sitting in the ideal body fat range between 19-24%
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.
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.
I was thinking the other day about how much our society obsesses over food, in not necessarily a good way. I mean there have been a lot more discoveries about food, and the potential harmful side effects of various food products like artificial sweeteners, genetically modified foods, hormones, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and the list goes on. I love that people are becoming much more aware of what they are putting into their bodies, and are educating themselves about nutrition. I think it’s great that more and more people want to be healthy, and that they are a lot more conscious of not only their health, but the environment as well. However, there are a lot of us who are not educating ourselves properly about nutrition, and are falling into diets because we think it’s healthy, based on what we’ve heard but not on what we actually know. Eating gluten-free does not necessarily mean that you’re eating healthier, and it also doesn’t mean that you’re going to lose weight. I mean you may lose weight by cutting down on processed carbohydrates, that’s always a good thing, but don’t cut gluten completely out of your life if you don’t need to. This is because, if you go on long enough without eating gluten, then you may start to develop an intolerance to it when you were perfectly fine digesting it in the first place!
Eating gluten-free has become super popular, it seems like more and more people are reaching for gluten free options because they think it’s healthier for them, and they also believe that it will help them to lose weight. Now these claims are not necessarily false, however, there are plenty of gluten free products out there that are just as bad for you as the original. For example, gluten free cookies are still cookies!!! That means they are still full of sugar and fat just like a regular cookie! Gluten, is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barely. These are all various types of grains. Gluten is a protein that is found naturally in these grains, this does not mean that it is bad for everyone! Some people like my mother, can’t eat gluten at all because of an intolerance that was diagnosed by the doctor. My mom however, doesn’t just have an intolerance to gluten, she actually has a hereditary autoimmune disease called celiac. When people with celiac ingest gluten, their body has an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks damage the lining of the small intestine (the villi) which promotes nutrient absorption into the body. When the vili is damaged, it is much more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients, which can lead to further health complications. When the body is attacking the small intestine because gluten was eaten at some point, it is very painful. The person will bloat terribly, and have terrible gas as well. No one wants to feel this way, and no one wants to be around a gassy person, and the only treatment for celiac so far is a gluten free diet.
If you don’t experience terrible bloating, gas, cramps, or irregular bowel movements when you ingest any wheat product, then there is no real need for you to eat a gluten-free diet. Gluten CAN be an inflammatory for some people. Just like lactose, eggs, and alcohol can all be inflammatory to people, but not to everyone. Sugar can be an inflammatory! It may not be the gluten that is bothering you, but the amount of sugars you’re consuming in your diet! So if you’re eating a gluten free cookie, you may still experience inflammation, gas, and weight gain. If you can eat toast, or regular wheat pasta without getting super gassy and uncomfortable then you most likely don’t have a gluten intolerance, and becoming gluten free won’t necessarily help you. However, cutting down on processed foods like store-bought breads, pastas, cakes, cookies, pastries, granola bars, boxed cereals, the list goes on, can help you lose weight, and will help you feel better overall. This is because, a lot of these food products contain high amounts of sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and so on. All of these things can cause inflammation, and weight gain. Plus, because they are all high on the glycemic index, they will also cause your insulin levels to spike. This will give you a sudden burst of energy, and then a heavy crash if you’re eating too much of it at a time. So, if you enjoy bread, and pasta, then make it a once in a while treat. Eat it in MODERATION but you don’t have to get rid of it completely.
In conclusion, what I’m trying to say is this. Eating less packaged and processed foods will be better for your health overall, even if you’re gluten-free or not. However, ordering a gluten free pizza from Pizza Nova, will not make that meal choice any healthier FYI. I know for myself personally, when I eat too many artificial sweeteners, I can get headaches, and I can get gassy. I can also get really sick from eating really fatty foods, like too much cheese. Nobody wants to be around me after that! Last summer, I had a terrible episode in Miami… All of my closest friends know exactly what happened!! I ate a super greasy lobster roll, and let’s just say it didn’t end well… It was also soggy and gross 😦 serves me right for eating a New England food in Miami in the summer time. So, if you experience any real discomfort after eating certain foods the best way to discover what the actual culprit is, is to talk to your doctor first or any other healthcare professional! If it’s nothing serious just gas and bloating, then the best thing to do is to eliminate all possible inflammatory foods. So, eliminate dairy, gluten, alcohol, eggs. Do this for a month, and then introduce one of these foods at a time. So one week introduce eggs and see what happens, then introduce dairy, and so on and so forth. You may not need to eliminate things completely, but you may need to restrict certain foods because they make you uncomfortable. Having terrible gas, or bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or even heat burn/acid reflux, is NOT normal, and you shouldn’t keep taking antacids, or Pepto Bismol because that is not actually solving the problem! You need to cut down or cut out the foods that are causing you this discomfort! Everybody’s body is different, and you need to figure out what types of foods make you feel your best, and help you to perform your best when exercising and going about your daily lives.
A picture of a breakfast that I made for myself recently. I actually eat eggs, or egg whites every morning. It’s my favorite way to start the day 🙂
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.
My first awkward workout selfie of the New Year!! LOL
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.
Last month I was teaching one of my corporate fitness classes, and I was demonstrating a reverse lunge to the class, while holding a kettle bell. One of the participants asked me what the purpose was of me holding the kettle bell? Instead of going into a long-winded rant about the importance of weight training, I gave her a very simple answer about how holding a weight increases the difficulty level, forces your muscles to work harder, forces your balance to come into play and how it works your core (people LOVE that). A lot of people don’t really understand how important it is to regularly weight train. Most people assume that weights are only there to make you big and strong, and this scares a lot of women away, because the last thing many women want to be is BIG and Bulky. Yes weights do help to build your strength, but they do more than just that. If done properly, and with intensity, lifting weights are essential to you losing body fat. Cardio is simply not enough to lose weight, and it is not the ONLY option. Yes, cardiovascular training is important but it will not give you a nice butt! Trust me! Unless you become a sprinter… but let’s be real most of us are not going to start our weight loss journey doing the 100 meter dash!
I’ve written two other articles related to weight training and some of the myths that surround it like How I’ve enhanced my feminine shape through weight training 🙂 or Toned? or Skinny? Toned, the new word for skinny…. There are so many misconceptions when it comes to weight training, and it is very frustrating! Not only as a fitness professional, but as a female. Lifting weights will not make you big and bulky! But too much of your favorite treats will! Lifting weights will actually help you achieve better overall fat loss than just cardio alone, and it will also give your body a better overall shape and definition. But how?
First of all, weight training increases your metabolic rate for 36 hours post workout. This means that not only did you burn x amount of calories during your workout, your body will keep burning calories for the rest of the day at a higher rate. Sure, you may burn more calories minute per minute of cardio than you would weight training, but you would only burn an additional 40-80 calories post workout from cardiovascular training. This means, that even though you may burn a lot of calories during a good cardio session, you would burn more calories overall with a consistent weight training program. In order to achieve a high post calorie burn from aerobic exercise, you must being doing it for a long period of time, like a marathon runner for example. However, people who are capable of such long distance running are not typically concerned with fat loss. Sprinting, on the other hand can bring about a post workout calories burn similar to that of weight training, however, you must be sprinting pretty hard in order to see these kinds of benefits.
Secondly, not only will weight training boost your metabolic rate for 36 hours post workout, it will increase your long-term metabolic rate as well. It does this by increasing your overall lean muscle mass. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate will be. Your basal metabolic rate is a calculation of the amount of calories your body would burn just lying in bed, not moving, just breathing. The more accurate calculations would consider your lean mass as well, not just your overall weight, however, the point is, is that the more muscle you have the more calories your body will burn. This is why men, who typically have more muscle mass than women, can eat more than women and gain less weight. I need to be clear though, no one will just magically bulk up in lean muscle mass the second they pick up a weight. Naturally it takes a month to build 1-2 pounds of PURE MUSCLE for a male, and in the same amount of time a female will be able to build 1/2 to a full pound of muscle. This is does not include water and fat that come along with general weight gain. That being said, over time with consistent effort, this will make you much more resistant to weight gain as you grow older.
Unlike cardio, weight training has the ability to completely reshape your body. Doing cardiovascular training does help with general weight loss, however, this weight loss will be a combination of fat, water, and muscle. Therefore, if you were just to do cardio, you will be left with just a smaller version of your current self. Also, too much cardio training can cause your body to release cortisol (stress hormone) which will cause your body to lose lean muscle mass, and to gain fat in the abdomen. Instead, if you are performing resistance training, with a proper diet, meaning you are consuming enough protein to sustain and grow your muscles, you are more likely to lose just body fat and some water. In addition to loosing your body fat, you will be enhancing the shape of your body, and the definition of your muscles. If you were to just do cardio, you will still be soft, and you won’t have the same muscle tone.
This was me in University in the 4th year when I used to teach a lot of cardio based fitness classes. Very long and lanky, not too much muscle tone.
Through consistent weight training my body has more balance and shape. This is a photo from earlier this year (I need to be better with taking photos) my shoulders and arms have more definition and shape.
I’m naturally more of a pear shaped female. I’ve always been leaner on top, and fuller on the bottom. It has been through weight training that I’ve been better able to balance out my body and create more of an hourglass shape. If you’re worried about becoming too masculine? Please don’t be! We females do not produce enough testosterone naturally to build that kind of size, and the average female does not consume nearly enough calories to get that big either. So, if you want to enhance your shape, lose body fat and improve your long-term health? You must weight train on a regular basis!