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Exhausting Day And You Don’t Want To Work Out. Now What?

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Sometimes you’ve had a long day at work or with the kids and you definitely don’t feel like going to the gym by the time evening rolls around. Even if your job isn’t physically demanding, mental exhaustion alone can be so draining it leaves you like a rag doll flopping around from the couch to the sofa.

However,  that nagging little voice in your head knows you should be getting your workout done. After all, you want to change your body, stay healthy, lean down, be stronger, or whatever your goal is. But you’re faced with a conflict between what you should be doing (exercising) and what you want to be doing (putting up your feet and binge-watching Netflix.)

How do you solve this riddle?

Well, you begin by first of all questioning why, in your mind, exercising and relaxing are opposites and incompatible with one another. 

When athletes and avid gym-goers say that exercising helps calm them down and unwind after a tough day, they’re not just speaking like zombie cult members who drank the Kool-Aid. Research actually backs them up.  This effect, of course, is hardly noticeable after one or two gym sessions. But if you stick with it long enough, your body will start yearning for that surge of endorphins, and you will begin to understand what the fuss is all about.

Take a quiet moment with yourself and discover how you truly think about exercising. What words come to your mind?

Is it an obligation, a chore, boring, a must-do, a drag, awkward, a necessary evil? Then no wonder it sucks the life outta you.

But if working out is energizing, a joy, a privilege, an opportunity for achievement and success, part of your ritual for health, part of what keeps you grounded and sane, would you ever want to skip a day? Probably not.

 

Action begets action

And inaction begets inaction. That’s why most people feel it’s so terribly hard to get back at the gym after a few weeks off. That’s why after a long day of sitting at an office job, the last thing you want to do is move. But you must consciously break that chain. I like to think of this principle as an extension of Newton’s Laws of Motion. Newton stated that “An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it.” That’s right! If you don’t move, well, you will continue to not move. The external force to give you a jolting start may come in the shape of a workout buddy who drags your ass to the gym, or it can come in the form of your own inner awareness knowing that you’re fighting through a hump right now, but you’ll cross it over and feel better after.

law

You can trust the time will come when this fight is close to non-existent, because as Sir Newton pointed out, “An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless an external force acts upon it.” This means that once you get truckin’ and you’ve found your groove day after day, the inertia of your habit will continue to carry you. There will be less resistance, because working out after a long day is now just part of your normal life.

Now you know the importance of having a positive frame of mind towards all things exercise. But how do you accomplish that, exactly? Glad you asked!

Visualization

Listen, I don’t care if you think this sounds like woo-woo new agey bullshit. This shit works for Olympic athletes, has won gold medals, has been credited for speeding up miraculous recoveries after tragic accidents and even making the difference between living and dying in emergency situations. You and I are not above this technique, so let’s get off the logics soapbox already and just give this a try because it may very well change your darn life.

Every night as you’re dozing off to sleep take the time to clearly see yourself in your mind: it’s the following day, you just finished work, you feel happy and energized because you get to go exercise now. Be very clear and detailed. What are you wearing? What song are you singing along to? What does your car smell like? Feel the tranquility and contentment in you because you get to go and do something amazing for your body. Focus on how incredibly energetic and invigorated you feel!– this more than anything, since it’s what has been holding you back from going to the gym lately. Visualize your entire drive to the gym, your arrival, saying hi to staff members or friends, anything you do when you go to the gym… but see it clearly in your head feeling that sense of high energy you so much desire. Do this every single night for two weeks and watch the magic unfold.

 

Hands on, baby

As if this wasn’t enough, here are some additional techniques to help you kick lethargy to the curve.

1) Play with your schedule.

You may be firmly and adamantly not a morning person… and that’s ok. But maybe you just haven’t given an early morning workout a fair chance, in which case I invite you to do so. If your schedule and other obligations permit, give yourself four weeks in which you’ll go to the gym before your work day. Who knows, you may find that this helps you begin your day full of energy and that you love it. Or not. But you’ll only know until you give it a fair try. And if that doesn’t work out…

2) Set up for your success.

You have to eradicate obstacles before they arise. Leave everything ready the night before: your workout clothes, your ipod and ear buds, your water bottle, wallet, and towel. Leave a snack ready in the fridge, maybe the fruits to be blended into a smoothie. Make sure the car has gas. Set up an alarm. Basically anything that could pop up and give you an excuse to backtrack on your plan (Ah, my favorite shirt is in the wash… guess I can’t go today!) needs to be sorted out beforehand. Having no excuses  sets you up for success.

3) Make sure you’re having fun.

Do you have a workout program you absolutely love? Or are you stuck doing three hours on the elliptical? This is a pivotal issue I come across with people who can’t understand why they hate the gym… but how is that any surprise, if they hate their program? Even worse if there isn’t a program to follow! Then you feel scattered because you’re doing whatever and seeing no results. You need a solid program to follow with consistency, and luckily they abound in the internet. Find one you’re excited about.

What about your music? Do you have a playlist that songs that set your heart on fire? Music can play a huge roll on performance and motivation! It’s worth paying attention to and using to your benefit. While we’re at it, also think about your gym clothes… do you like them at all, or do they consist of ratty shorts and a concert t-shirt from 1987? I know it sounds superficial and silly, but it does make an impact. It may very well be worth it to invest the time in finding a top and bottom you feel comfortable in. You don’t have to break the bank, either. I like doing my share of second-hand shopping with great results!

4) Visualize.

Because I can’t say this enough. Do it. See yourself being happy and full of energy on your way to the gym. Do it every night and you will see things change almost instantly.

Change your mind and you will change your life.

 

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The Piece Of Advice I Never Imagined I Would Receive From a Fitness Professional

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A few weeks back I attended the largest fitness conference in Canada, and, as you can imagine, I was in my bliss. 

Previous to the event I had my own mental bucket list of things I wanted to do and people I wanted to see. One of those people was Dr. John Berardi, co-founder of Precision Nutrition

Yours truly with Dr. John Berardi

Yours truly with Dr. John Berardi, Canfitpro 2014

There are many reasons why I have felt a pull towards this company from the first time I heard about their coaching techniques and ideology, but to make a long story short you need to know that it was mainly because it makes sense. Their no bullshit, direct, common sense approach just felt right to me, and I have felt compelled to learn from them all that I can ever since. 

So when I found out Dr. B. would be presenting at the Canfitpro cleared my schedule and made sure I was there early. 

 

I approached the conference room and saw him standing by the door, greeting attendees. Never mind that he recognized me right away from reviewing my pictures from the photo shoot I did for his company last month (that alone was super cool, obviously!), but he was attentive and kind. He has a very gentle nature that shines through as he looks people in the eye and genuinely engages. 

 

My first appearance in the Precision Nutrition website.

My first appearance in the Precision Nutrition website.

 

At the end of his talk and as the room emptied, a few of us huddled at the front for a more personal round of questions with Dr. B. My turn came, and this is where I heard the unthinkable. 

 

You see, I had a question about my own physique. I wanted to solve a mystery about my own body composition, but I also had –unknowingly– already created a pre-conceived idea of what this uber successful fitness pro was going to tell me. I was sure he would prescribe me a specific macro ratio formula. He would certainly mention the ultimate research regarding effective exercise to achieve my goal. For good measure, he would surely finish off with some wise guru-ish comment about how it is all in me, and my ability to change is powerful. 

 

But what I got is, I got schooled in the most beautiful way. 

 

“I’m in the process of weaning my baby,” I began my story. “And lately it feels like almost overnight a very slight but noticeable to me layer of fat has appeared on my abdomen. Is it hormone changes? Is it stress and cortisol? Why is it there? And is there something I can do to get rid of it?” 

In my head I was ready to mentally record the complicated formulas and prescriptions I was sure he would throw at me. I had to pay attention and not let a detail escape me!

But… 

“Well… you don’t have to do anything,” he responded calmly.

I must have looked at least half as confused as I felt. But, the formulas! The supplements! The complicated advice!

None of that came out of his mouth.

What he did say, however, has forever re-arranged my views on myself and even on my coaching practice. 

“Of course there are things you could do if you really wanted to, but is it necessary? Instead, you could take a moment to trust your body and understand that your body knows what it is doing. It knows how to sort itself out. You exercise. You know how to eat. You can trust your body will get itself where it needs to be. Because it knows how.”

 

Trust the process.

Trust your body. 

 

And while I’m at it, stop assuming that everything requires a fix, a change, an improvement. It is so true, my body does know what it’s doing, and it’s about time I give it proper credit. 

 

Thanks Dr. B. 

 

Got it. 

 

Cottage Cheese Pancakes With Berry Reduction Sauce– ALL SUGAR-FREE!

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Move over Aunt Jemima. I got this.

I don’t often eat “normal” breakfast food (like sugary cereals, waffles,  muffins, toast, etc.), but today I had a particular craving for pancakes. If you know anything about me by now you’ll know I’m not one to forbid myself any foods (because, really, who wants to live life like that?) and so I set out to try a better option to the traditional breakfast food.

Regular pancakes are such a trap. Not only are you downing a helluva lot o’ flour, chemicals and sugar in the pancake mix itself, but then add to it the gross amounts of high-fructose corn syrup, more chemicals and even more sugar in the syrup and you have me weeping for humanity. No thank you.

So I made a sugar-free syrup to go with it. And it was good.

 

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I really liked them. Twenty-two month old Era really liked them. Like… really, really liked them (I may have fought her for the last bite). But my hubby wasn’t too impressed. He thought the texture was too mushy, so feel free to play around with the quantities of each ingredient until you find what tickles your taste buds.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes 

2/3 C rolled oats (no instant or 1-minute things. Just regular rolled oats. Use gluten free oats if necessary for you.)

1/3 cottage cheese

2 eggs

1/2 banana

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 Tbs. almond milk, or any milk of your preference

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until well mixed, about half a minute. Seriously, that’s all. Lightly butter a pan and cook as regular pancakes.

 

Berry Reduction Sauce

1/2 C of frozen berries. I used strawberries and blueberries

1 Tbs. raw honey

Place in a saucepan in medium-low heat. Berries will become mushy, the honey will melt, and everything will simmer together. The berries will release water from having been frozen. Let the mixture reduce until it’s syrupy and as thick or runny as you like it. And yes, I’m aware of the irony in heating up raw honey, but it’s the only type I buy, use and recommend, even if I’m going to end up heating it for some recipes.

 

For those times when pancakes are a must this high protein, sugar free and fiber-rich recipe will do!

 

The No-Human-Power-Can-Make-Me-Leave-The-House-Today Workout

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-20 Celsius. Enough said.

Here’s what to do when the prospect of stepping out and having your nose fall off is just too much to bear.

 

Warmup:

50 jumping jacks

Active stretching

 

Workout:

1st Set:

-5 burpees

-10 squats (I went for full range of motion variation, or Ass to Grass, as they’re commonly known)

Rest 30 seconds

 

2nd Set:

-8 burpees

-15 squats

Rest 45 sec.

 

3rd Set:

-10 burpees

-20 squats

Rest 1 min.

 

THE ASS TO GRASS SQUAT:

Baby squats

Squat, baby, squat. No baby required, though.

 

... and come back up strong, engaging glutes and core.

… and come back up strong, engaging glutes and core.

 

2 sets each of:

-30 side lunges (15 reps each side)

-20 glute bridge

Rest 30 sec. in between

 

THE SIDE LUNGE:

Side lunge: Feet about shoulder width apart.

Side lunge: Feet about shoulder width apart.

Bend one knee and come down pushing your butt back. Keep your spine neutral, don't allow it to round. With a strong push through the heel, use your bent leg to push yourself back to standing position.

… then bend one knee and come down pushing your butt back. Keep your spine neutral, don’t allow it to round. With a strong push through the heel, use your bent leg to push yourself back to standing position. Repeat 15x with the same leg, then switch.

 

THE GLUTE BRIDGE:

Glute bridge: Start laying on the floor, with your heels close to your butt.

Glute bridge: Start laying on the floor, with your heels close to your butt.

 

 

... then push your hips up. Way up. Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can, then slowly bring down and repeat. Note the hips do not rest entirely on the floor again in between reps-- it's just a dynamic up-and-down.

… then push your hips up. Way up. Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can, then slowly bring down and repeat. Note the hips do not rest entirely on the floor again in between reps– it’s just a dynamic up-and-down.

To finish:

– 3 sets of 1 minute planks.

Rest 30 sec. in between each

 

Plank: Don't arch your back or allow your hips to collapse down.

Plank: Don’t arch your back or allow your hips to collapse down.

 

Stretch.

 

And there you have a full body exercise (albeit with a bit more emphasis on lower body, which is the way I like it) that doesn’t even require any equipment. This works endurance and strength. Extra points if you use your baby, your fat cat, or any other creative prop for additional resistance.

I really don’t want to say this but I have to say it because YEAH. If you’re exercising with your baby (or your cat for that matter) use common sense and if something feels unsafe/off/too tough put the child down. Put. the child. down. But you’re smart peeps and you know this already, right? Right.

Turmeric Vegetable Egg Bake (Alternatively: Don’t be an asshole to your body)

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“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

Now lunch and dinner are officially insulted. Nice doing.

So, is it? Isn’t it? I think it’s a stretch to call breakfast the most important meal because all of them are important, but it certainly is of great value. Think of it this way: You wake up after hours of sleep, and your body is in dire need of nutrients. Then, what does the average person do? Feed themselves coffee or some equivalent crap. I have nothing against coffee and enjoy it sometimes, but if that’s the first (and worse, the only) thing you’re feeding your body in the morning when your organism is starved for nutrition, that’s asking for trouble. Body goes all like, the fuck, what am I supposed to do with this shit.

There are obviously plenty of genuine medical reasons why a body may go bezerk, from thyroid problems to diabetes and so many others. For the average human being, though, it can often boil down to habits.

And so when we’re being unreliable and not providing Body with proper sustenance, Body says screw this, who knows when I’m getting fed again, imma store me some fat. It’s like when you were a teen and Mom would clean your room and you’d be all MOM but Mom didn’t give a shit because you obviously weren’t going to do it yourself. Before we yell at Body to MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS AND STOP TRYING TO RUIN MY LIFE we have to prove we’re responsible and feed it properly. That, or consider yourself grounded.

This may sound like new age-y hippie crap, but I honestly think that we would be singing an entirely different tune if daily we could be appreciative and grateful of how immensely wise is our biology. It would certainly be better than cussing our body because the asshole insists on storing fat. That’s a figure of speech by the way, your asshole does not indeed store fat. Back to the paradox, we get angry at our body for being amazing and protecting us– even from ourselves. How poetic and sad is that?

As I’ve mentioned before, my favorite way to start my day is usually with a fruit smoothie, but what I eat an hour or two after that varies from day to day. What I’ll show you next is an example of what I have on days that I feel particularly hungry and/or inspired to cook. Behold.

 

Why cook the vegetables in turmeric, you ask? Because turmeric is an amazing anti-inflammatory, comparable to drugs such as hydrocortisone and Motrin, except without the nasty toxic side effects. It offers relief to those with rheumatoid arthritis, aids those with cystic fibrosis, and it inhibits cancer cell growth. You can also use it in curries, soups, baked sweet potato, sprinkled over steamed cauliflower, or on caramelized onion.

Turmeric Vegetable Egg Bake

Sliced vegetables of your liking. I used: Onion, green, red and yellow pepper, zucchini, jalapeno, mushroom, shredded carrot, and baby spinach.

1 egg

oil, for sauteing

1/2 avocado

3 Tbs of mashed black beans (homemade is always better)

Turmeric

Salt and pepper

Garlic powder

Paprika (optional)

Dry parsley

Take all the sliced vegetables except for the spinach, and saute them lightly. You can skip this step, but I like it better like this because it mellows out the flavor of the onion and softens the veggies. Flavor them to taste using salt, pepper, garlic powder and turmeric. Once they’re done add the baby spinach to the pan and cover for about 90 seconds. Remove from heat and place all veggies in the baking bowl.

Crack the egg carefully on top of the veggies and place in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350. While the egg is baking, scoop out the avocado half and mash it up, adding sea salt (you can skip the salt, but I swear I can’t eat avocado without it. It’s a psychological thing.) Place the mashed avocado back into the skin, hollowing the center a bit so it nests the mashed black beans. Sprinkle dried parsley.

Once the egg is cooked to your liking bring it out of the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Sprinkle paprika on top.

 

Next time we feel like stomping our feet and threatening to run away because Body is obviously trying to ruin our lives, we should take a moment to consider that Body, just like Mom, is looking out for our best interest. They both act on what is best for us– even if we can’t understand it. Thank you, Body. Thank you, Mom. Now I get it.

 

I was going to title this ‘Taste the Rainbow’, but then I wanted to punch myself in the face.

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I can do better. I’ll come up with a more creative title. Someday.

Now focus.

Some months ago I found an article in one of those trashy celebrity sites (now you’re gonna pretend you never read those?) and the headline said something like ZOMG JENNIFER ANISTON REVEALS SUPER DIET SECRET. Not exactly but might as well considering journalism is pretty much dead. Anyway, it was one more of hundreds of articles that promise the answer to everyone’s prayers, the revealing of the mystical elixir of youth– and skinniness. So of course I read it!

Her secret diet? She eats colorful meals.

I facepalmed and rolled my eyes so hard they almost fell out of their sockets, but not because the advice was stupid. It was because groan why did this information have to be released as celebrity news, thus completely stripping it of any credibility? Looking at it on the bright side, maybe the article helped some people change their eating habits for the better by sheer aspiration to be perceived as desirable as Aniston. Har.

Jennifer Aniston aside, I learned about colorful meals a long time ago through my reiki teacher, who also happens to be a naturopath, herbologist and a medical doctor. The logic behind this idea is actually quite simple: Every food’s color is determined by the nutrient they mostly consist of. So, by eating a bit of every color found in nature each day you’re guaranteeing your body is receiving the widest variety of nutrients.

EASY.

I laugh sometimes (and by laugh I mean I want to cry) when I see how unnecessarily complicated some people make nutrition seem. The bookstore is full of books in which the authors figured how to make money off of you and me, and we fall for it every time. Think about it: If it was absolutely necessary that we carry around our kitchen scale, calculate our intakes like a witch’s potion, avoid entire food groups, and count calories until our head explodes, then humanity never would have made it this far. None of it is sustainable for the course of an entire lifetime.

Of course nutrition is a science (and a fascinating one, too!) and it’s full of awesome complexities, chemical reactions, hormonal  releases and even psychological aspects. It is true that when there is a specific goal at hand (say, shaving off a fraction of a second in how fast an Olympic runner runs 100 m.) the elaborate details in the diet are of mayor importance, but it is also true that the act of eating normally, for everyday sustenance and health, is in no way difficult– and it was never meant to be.

If you’re thinking that by ‘colors’ I mean you can down a packet of Sweetarts and call it a day, you’re doing it wrong. These colors must come from wholesome foods: Foods that grow/exist on their own in nature with no human intervention. GASP. There is an amazing world of food out there, and sadly we have limited ourselves to a very small spectrum. Our choices aren’t always what our body needs, and we suffer because of it in the form of disease, lethargy and excessive weight. Changing this doesn’t have to be difficult.

And now, I will share with you the list of foods by color that I use myself as a reminder of some of the options there are available. Because I’m awesome. WHO LOVES YOU.

Simply click on the picture and you’ll be able to print it.

Obviously depending on your area and availability some of these items will be more difficult to find than others. Stick to what is affordable and readily accessible to you. Remember, easy does it. For example, if some fresh fruit is off-season and very expensive at the moment, maybe consider using frozen fruit instead. I do use frozen fruits and veggies when prices are too hacked up here (usually in the middle of the cold, dead winter), but I generally steer away from canned stuff. Do whatever works for you.  Also, feel free to add or delete items from the list above to your liking– make this yours.

And because I know it can take a bit of time to get used to new habits, here’s a little something to help you along the way. Print the following chart and simply write down by day the foods you’ve had so far. It’s a great way to see which color is the most evasive in your diet, and so you can focus on consuming a bit more of that.

For example, yesterday I ate

Smoothie: Blueberries, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, pomegranate, flaxseed.

Hot cereal: Bob’s Red Mill mix with corn, wheat and buckwheat; almond milk, almonds and walnuts added to it.

Lunch: Chickpea soup (tomatoes, ginger, yellow onion), and avocado sandwich in whole wheat bread.

Dinner: Green salad (spinach, lettuce, beet greens, arugula), vegetable cream soup (carrots, potatoes, red onion, leeks, zucchini, almond milk), shrimp.

So my chart for yesterday would look something like this:

It isn’t necessary to write down every. single. thing. you eat, though you can certainly be as detailed as you want. I mostly conform with writing one item per color even if I ate more, just to know that I’ve had something in that color for the day. As you see, yesterday I didn’t have anything black so today I’ll remember to add some raisins to my cereal.

Bonus? This chart is awesome for kids, too. It’s like a game, the challenge of getting one in every color by the end of the day! Even better when they get to pick and choose from the list what it is they like to eat. Involvement never hurt ’em.

I find that starting my day with a fruit smoothie not only guarantees that I consume a whole lotta colors right off the bat, but it also gives me that extra humpf of energy. Plus they’re delicious.

And now you’re ready, my little grasshopper, to take charge of your beautiful body and treat it like it deserves. Go on and make me proud.