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5 Run With It clothing tips for novice runners and walkers

With spring just around the corner – Vancouverites are begging to retire their snow shovels – warmer temperatures can motivate some to take up running for the first time or inspire those determined souls who are trying to come back after a nagging injury.

Before starting a running program, it’s wise to invest in a good pair of running shoes. Your feet are essential to your well being and they deserve the very best that you can provide. If you’ve ever run in soaking wet, heavy, skin-chafing cotton, you’ll know the importance of choosing fabrics that are sweat wicking to help keep you dry and enhance performance while training.

Courtesy of Skechers Canada

Looking for something you can wear straight from a run to the office? Try Firma Energy active wear. Their stylish leggings are great for walking and the office. “Firma energy wear absorbs infrared waves that our bodies omit & re-emits them with far infrared waves , which penetrate the human body, increase blood circulation and stimulate muscle tissue to a depth of 5cm,” says owner Yvonne Hogenes.

Firma athletic-business wear. Photo Credit: Jeanette Brown

Here are the Top 5 Run With It clothing tips for participating in this year’s Vancouver Sun Run 10k, which annually attracts about 50,000 runners, mostly non-competitive; or any other event that may stoke your competitive spirit.

  1. Dress in layers. It is generally cool at the start of the run, so…. wear some clothes you can either throw away or give to someone to hold for awhile.
  2. Bring extra clothes for after the race to change into.
  3. Wear what you normally train in and are comfortable in for the race. New garments, especially socks, can sometimes chafe your skin. For best results, test run a pair of sweat wicking socks so you’ll know what to expect.
  4. Avoid cotton – wear lightweight, breathable sweat wicking fabrics to keep you dry and comfortable.
  5. Wear a runner’s cap to keep you dry and protect you from the sun.

Overall, these clothing tips will help keep you warm, comfortable and help you to perform at your best.

Courtesy of Skechers Canada

www.runwithit.ca
Twitter: @christineruns
Run With It on YouTube – runwithitcb1

#HealthAtEverySize: Big Fit Girl

As a plus-size woman, I rarely read self-help books. I find them degrading and useless. They make me feel like I’m not good enough. The authors, most of whom are tiny celebrities that can afford personal trainers and in-house chefs, put an emphasis on weight and size. They suggest cutting our carbs, eating only low-fat foods, exercising seven days a week, and attending boot camps to ensure your body is “bikini ready.”

For plus-size women, these recommendations can cause anxiety and depression, and 90 per cent of the time result in fast weight loss and even faster gains after the fact.

Big Fit Girl is an exception to that sentiment. This book follows the personal story of author and plus-size athlete and personal trainer Louise Green on their journey towards athleticism. The book is full of body-positive messages and completely dismisses the idea that health is related to a number on a scale.

For example, did you know that about 40 per cent of obese men and women have healthy blood pressure and normal cholesterol? And yet, most of those people are judged by the size of pants they are able to squeeze into.

 

Green runs through how the fitness industry as a whole discriminates against size and fails to meet the specific needs of plus-size women. Athleticism, according to Big Fit Girl, doesn’t equate with weight or size. It is something that can be measured by ability, strength, and endurance. In essence — a healthy body doesn’t necessarily mean a bikini body and the fitness industry needs to come to that realization.

I’ve been struggling with my own health journey for a while, and reading this book gave me the inspiration I needed to keep going. It begins by shattering stereotypes and discussing the lack of body diversity in advertising, media, and branding. Green asks her readers to make a number of pledges, including avoiding companies that don’t provide options for larger body types and eliminating negative, body shaming messaging.

As encouragement, Green lists the social media information of a number of professional plus-size athletes who, despite their size, have become award-winners in their field. The book is slam-packed with stories and quotes from plus-size athletes, outlining their peaks and valleys, as well as their success.

Big Fit Girl is a wonderful combination of athletic and nutritional advice, motivational success stories, and myth debunking. In between the storytelling, Green includes a number of recipes, simple stretches, her favourite workout playlist, and a training regime for a 5k race.

Green wants her readers to succeed, but not only because she wants them to accomplish their personal goals. Instead, she wants to start a movement: plus-size women have a prerogative to prove to society that they can be healthy and active. The more people that see plus-size women on the racetrack, the more it will be normalized.  “Whether you are an avid walker, a triathlete, a ballroom dancer, or an Olympic weightlifter, or if you aspire to be al these things and more, your presence as a plus-size woman working out in our society is creating a much-needed shift. And because we don’t see women of size as much as we need to in advertising, television, movies, or other media, it’s up to us – you and me – to inspire others to join our ranks.”

Ultimately, this book taught me a number of things, but these three stand out: Don’t be afraid of trying something because you think you will be limited by your size. Aim for health and fitness above weight loss and dieting. And practice self love, because you ARE an athlete.

Big Fit Girl will be available in stores on March 18.

‘Love Your Age Fitness’ guru Kate Maliha on staying healthy

The cliché, ‘age is just a number’ can be your reality if you look after your mental and physical health.

Kate Maliha, director of Love Your Age Fitness in Vancouver, is a Gerokinesiologist – certified as a Functional Aging Specialist and Medical Exercise Specialist – who believes exercise needs to be more thoughtful as we get older. Women’s Post sat down with Maliha to learn more about her business and her experience in the fitness industry.

Q: When did you form the company Love Your Age and why?

A: I saw there was a real need for programs geared to experiences of aging. I decided to go back to school to learn more about exercise and aging, so I got my masters degree. While my focus in human kinetics was on a variety of areas related to the aging body, I was particularly interested in the social aspects of exercise as we get older, in knowing more about what keeps people exercising as they get older.

My experience in the fitness industry prior to my graduate degree was that the industry did not seem to reflect an understanding of life as we get older and was fairly one-note in terms of both message and offerings – so I wanted to help change how the fitness industry provides solutions for older bodies.

What did you see were problems in the industry, in terms of responding to people who were getting older?

There aren’t a variety of fitness options that adjust for the changes people experience when they get older. For instance, what happens when you get an injury, or have a medical condition and you can’t do your favourite class or sport? Exercise needs are varied as we age, just as the experience of aging is different for everyone. Some exercise needs to be modified for a medical condition or a chronic condition, and some exercise needs to actually be the medicine for a health condition. And just as with any medication, there are specific dosages and specific prescriptions for exercise depending on your health. We need specialists in functional aging to really focus in on these aspects, rather than generalists. And as exercise specialists in aging, our focus is on the nuances of many, many different aspects of aging and the body.

You have a very personal story related to what you do?

Life has an interesting way of driving home lessons we really need to learn. During the course of completing my graduate degree I had both my children – really lucky for me actually, because I had experienced infertility for seven years. I had complications though, and my health really suffered. I also had trouble putting my health before all my family responsibilities. Here I was, after having my second child, and my body seemed broken. I had back pain, some incontinence from child birth, I couldn’t move quickly like I used to, getting up off a chair was hard, let alone the floor. I was stiff, tired. I understood what people mean when they say they feel old, regardless of their actual age. So I was really fortunate that I had lots of research information on functional exercise for aging, and I could apply that to myself.  I was able to take the information I had learned and get my function back, and be really healthy and pain free.  Now I’m so excited, it feels like having super powers, to have applied the knowledge and seen my body bounce back.  And I fully understand what it feels like, to be broken, in a sense. And then get put back together.

What excites you in your role as Director of Love Your Age?

A: Managing stress and keeping emotionally strong were the main reasons I got into the fitness profession 25 years ago, and it’s still my main motivator. It’s really exciting to see where the research is going now in terms of exercise for both mood and cognition. When we think about how we want to age, it’s great to think of the body but we aren’t bodies alone. They aren’t separate from our minds. We need to have strategies to optimize mental and cognitive health if we are going to age well. And new brain research in neuroscience supports the idea that the brain can regenerate, this concept being termed, neuroplasticity. That’s why our team created The Brain & Body Workout. There are just so many aspects of exercise for aging well, and they are all important. We can’t leave out cognition and mood. So we’ve incorporated research-based techniques used in brain therapy, techniques that work on the interplay between cognitive and physical aspects of balance training, as well as mind-body techniques. We are fortunate to have staff with specialities ranging from Osteofit and Steady Feet as well as research experience in brain health and socio-cultural aspects of exercise. We’ve been able to create something new and exciting.

 

www.runwithit.ca
Twitter – @christineruns
Instagram – @runwithit_christineblanchette
YouTube – runwithitcb1

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Febel

“You are not broken.”

That is Jennifer Febel’s personal, and professional, mantra. When she was 19, Febel was diagnosed with a multitude of mental disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, suicidal ideation and self-harm. “In other words: broken,” she says. In fact, one of the many doctors Febel saw on her road to recovery actually used that term to describe her condition.

Those words had a deep impact. For years, Febel thought she had to live with “being broken”. She was given medications and coping options — but nothing helped. Eventually, her anxiety grew until she couldn’t leave the house.

That’s when she took a chance on a wellness coach, who was able to convince her to look past her scepticism and try some alternative mind-body tools. “The most powerful moment from me was when my coach told me “You are not broken”. To have someone say that was profound.”

“After 13 years of struggling and medication and therapy, I was able to come off meds and I never looked back. I was able to feel how I wanted to feel.”

Febel has an incredibly bubbly personality and a genuine smile. Invite her to your party and she may bring her hula hoop and perform an impressive dance routine. Her fast wit and positive outlook on life is contagious — and if she didn’t open up about her past, no one would know how much she struggled.

Her decision to see a wellness coach shaped the rest of her life and inspired her to go into the field herself. Febel is now a certified wellness coach and master hypnotherapist operating out of Bradford, Ont., with clients across Simcoe, York, and the GTHA. Her business, whose name Live Life Unbroken is inspired by her own personal experiences, helps those with phobias, anxiety, depression, trauma, stress, and general wellness goals. She emphasizes that she is not a medical doctor and cannot treat these disorders, but she can help relieve the symptoms.

“Basically, my job is to help people figure out what they actually want and then chart a path to get to it,” she said. “We often know what we don’t want –  I don’t want to be anxious or stressed all the time – my role is to help them find out what they actually want and how to go about getting that.”

How does she do that? Febel likes to think of the mind like a computer, and her job is cognitive tech support.

“Nothing needs to be fixed. Sometimes, over the course of your life, you download a virus. You call in the geek squad — that’s me! Someone who can manoeuvre the system.”

The current medical model sees mental health as a hardware program, Febel says. Instead, she thinks of things like anxiety and depression as software programs that need to be uninstalled. To do that, she uses advanced mind-body tools that are practiced in 38 countries around the world to find out what’s happening at the subconscious level.

“The problem is you don’t know what you don’t know. The problems are at the unconscious level,” she says. While most cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on the “why”, Febel focuses more on the “how” in order to relieve the symptoms of the “virus”. “In my mind, who cares about the why. It just satisfies curiosity. We focus on how the problem is created– then we can change it.”

Febel respects and encourages the skepticism associated with hypnosis and personal coaching. “That was me,” she said. “When I saw my coach I thought it was a hoax.”

“If you want to freak people out at a party, tell them you are a hypnotherapist. You get two reactions –‘ cool, can you hypnotize’ me or ‘I can’t be hypnotized. ‘I see it as my job to educate. Skepticism is the doorway to the wonder of change – just avoid letting it get in your way.”

In addition to one-on-one coaching, Febel runs a number of workshops through Live Life Unbroken, the most popular being a one-day workshop called “Reboot Your Inner Spark.” This course allows participants to tap into their own intuition and learn how to start healing naturally.

Last year, Febel began a new program called “Leadership Alchemy,” which touches upon communication and connections in personal and professional situations, or how Febel describes it, “how to be a true leader in your life.” She is also co-running a women’s wellness weekend where she will be leading some classes on revitalizing your chakras. During that weekend, women will be taught to find balance and centering in their daily lives, as well as participate in other wellness activities like yoga and magnified healing.

In addition to her workshops, Febel is also a regular presenter at a number of conferences and events. She is currently working on a presentation that will encourage women to stop being so nice. “When I’m “nice”, I have no boundaries. I’m doing what everyone else wants,” she says. “It creates “angry nice girls” who on the surface doing well, but on the inside they are angry and sad. Banish [the word nice] from your vocabulary. Be compassionate. Be kind. Nice doesn’t help anyone.”

When Febel isn’t working, she sings with York Harmony Chorus, an award-winning acappella group of over 40 women that sing in four-part harmony. The chorus competes regionally once a year and Febel helps with choreography and PR, as well as performs. “Every week I get to spend a few hours with these wonderful women and that nourishes my life in so many ways.”

Febel is someone who constantly loves to learn and try new things. She works with her own coaches and uses her own mind-body tools on a regular basis, starting each day with a grounding or energy-balancing exercise like tai chi. She loves to curl and is constantly reading or ordering books online. The one book she returns to on a regular basis is Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine by Deepak Chopra.

 

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How to combat your coffee addiction once and for all

It’s one thing for your morning cup of joe to help you get through the day after a long night. However, if you’re on your third cup of espresso before noon and it’s the only reason for your existence at the moment, you may have a slight problem. Sure, coffee helps knocks things off your long to-do list, but it is also responsible for increasing anxiety and depression, indigestion, and other health problems. Coffee addiction is not easy to combat. It takes determination, perseverance, and a little bit of that New Year’s motivation that we’re all currently striving on. With these few easy steps, your coffee addiction can be a thing of the past once and for all.

 

  1. Start on a weekend

It’s probably not a good idea to start your coffee cleanse the week you have a big project coming up. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms can leave you with a brutal headache, not to mention give you a bad case of the jitters. To avoid experiencing these during your 3 o’clock meeting, start your coffee cleanse on a weekend, when you’re at home and able to relax.

  1. Eat chocolate

Dark chocolate not only tastes good, but can help satisfy your coffee craving. You can substitute your morning cup of joe with a good old fashioned cup of hot chocolate, or casually nibble on some chocolate throughout the day. Remember, everything is okay in moderation! Let’s not forget those fitness goals while we’re trying to combat our addiction.

  1. Switch it up!

There may be many reasons why you want to cut coffee out of your life. Whether it’s the amount of sugar you put into your lattes, the increase in high fat dairy that your body can no longer endure, or the overall disadvantages of caffeine, it’s important to make gradual substitutes when it comes to combatting coffee addiction. Start off by decreasing the amount of sugar, switch to black coffee, or try decaffeinated coffee. It’s not an overnight process, so take your time!

  1. Hydrate

The solution to all of your life problems is to hydrate. Increase your water intake! Drinking enough water is known to help combat fatigue, decrease unwanted weight gain, keep your blood pressure down, and well as flush toxins out of your body. The sudden boost of energy will aid in removing other toxins out of your life too, like Jimmy from Marketing. So quench that thirst.

  1. Sweat it out

Another solution that’s not just for coffee addiction, but a lot of other health and wellness concerns, is daily exercise. Increasing your heart rate as well as practicing muscle strength and endurance can help combat the fatigue and lack of energy that may come without your everyday coffee. In addition, exercising releases serotonin, which will put you in a better mood. Not even your dog drinking out of the toilet for the 30th time this week can phase you!

These simple but effective solutions can keep the caffeine at bay! Welcome to a new life of whiter teeth and more pocket change. Don’t forget to share your journey with us in the comments below! Good luck!

Recipe: What’s the deal with breakfast bowls?

Healthy habits may develop slowly, and it starts by planning out your meals.

As a big breakfast fan, I love the idea of breakfast bowls. They look so pretty on Instagram and on Pinterest — but when it comes to actually making it, I find myself lazy and cheap. How do you make something so beautiful so early in the morning? And what is a “breakfast bowl” anyway? Women’s Post seeks to answer some of those questions below:

Superfood it up

This is the one pictured most often in articles about breakfast bowls. It is also the option that requires a real investment — both financially and mentally. first of all, most bowls have a quinoa base. Cook the quinoa (rinse first), by placing 1/2 cup of the seeds in a pot with 1 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of coconut or almond milk. Cook like you would rice, until the liquid is gone and the quinoa is fluffy. If you don’t want to do a quinoa base, try a chia seed and yogurt base. Top with superfoods like merjool dates, golden raisons, shredded coconut, goji berries, pepitas, sunflower seeds, flax, and more chia seeds. Add nutmeg and cinnamon, as well as berries or nuts to your liking.

Smoothie bowl

This one seems like a waste of a bowl to me. Essentially, you make a smoothie and then put it in a bowl and top it off with superfoods and fruit — chia seeds, coconut, and berries for example. You then proceed to eat the smoothie with a spoon. Personally, I make a smoothie for breakfast only when I’m on the run. I can put all these good things IN the blender (chia seeds, berries, granola, flax, ect.) and drink it on the bus. Why on earth would I want to make it into a bowl?

I think the answer is obvious: for the Instagram likes.  Am I right?

Savoury twist

Sometimes breakfasts can be a bit too sweet. Try making a quinoa base and topping it with nuts, hardboiled or poached eggs, some sausage, and avocado. Not feeling like the extra carbohydrates? Try exchanging the quinoa base for greens like kale or spinach for a breakfast salad-type of thing. Top with sprouts, sweet potatoes, or other light-vegetables that are easy on the stomach. Add some nuts for extra protein and a light homemade dressing with lemon juice, oil, and spices.

Want to satisfy a sweet craving?

Try making a chocolate chia pudding and topping it with fruit. This pudding can be quite filling, so half a cup is plenty.

In a bowl, whisk together one to two cups of milk (or almond milk) , 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1/4 cup cocoa, a sweetening agent (I use agave or maple syrup), and some vanilla. Refrigerate overnight in the bowl or divide into jam jars for portability. You may have to experiment with the ratio of chia seeds and milk until you reach a consistency you like. Top with fresh strawberries, bananas, or blueberries. Or go crazy and choose all three!

While these “bowls” are picturesque, I’m not sure if they are worth the time (and money) it would take to make them. I’m more then happy with my regular smoothies and granola-yogurt combinations — which by the way, is the exact same thing as these “bowls”, but without the expensive superfoods.

But, what do you think?

Have you made a breakfast bowl before? Let us know what you put in it in the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Emily Ridout

Sometimes an idea just comes to you. In fact, it calls to you — and it can’t go unanswered.

That’s what Emily Ridout said when Women’s Post asked her why she started 889Yoga, a yoga and wellness studio on Yonge Street in Toronto. For her, it was about bringing the practices she learned during her travels to the city she loved.

“Toronto didn’t have that yet. It was missing and we wanted to create that in our own city. A place where people could feel very comfortable to go on this path to healing and returning to who they really are, in a space that was clean, beautiful, and accessible”

889 is a quaint little studio located near Rosedale. The storefront is full of essential oils, juices, journals, candles and teas, in addition to props used for yoga, pilates, and meditation. As you head upstairs to the studio, the smell of white tea is unmistakeable. Class participants are free to enjoy a glass of water or cup of tea before and after their session. The studio itself is bright with lots of windows that allow the sun to shine in. It’s the kind of place that automatically relaxes you and breaks down barriers.

The studio has a very loyal following. As one member said, once you take a class at 889, “you’ll fall in love with it”. Newcomers are welcomed with a smile and instructors are patient with everyone, no matter their skill level. The ultimate goal is for people to feel comfortable and at peace — and in that, 889 is very successful.

“We are a beginner/intermediate studio,” Ridout said. “If you haven’t tried it, it’s very welcoming, kind, forgiving, and that is what we set out for. “

Ridout comes from a family of entrepreneurs, but decided to venture into academics instead. She studied commerce with a minor in French. Eventually, she dropped commerce and focused all her energy on linguistics.

Her first job following her graduate degree was with Butterfield and Robinson, a company that designs and runs tourist expeditions, mainly involving hiking and biking around the world.  Ridout started as a receptionist, eventually applying for a temp job in operations working on trips outside of Europe. Shortly after she became Expeditions Trip Manager, helping plan and coordinate trips, as well as acting as communication liaison with the guides overseas.

Ridout loves to travel herself. She spent a year in Spain learning the language and culture. It was actually in Barcelona where she took her first official yoga class, mostly as a way to make friends and use her beginner Spanish. At the same time, her sister Christine was also introduced to yoga during her travels to California and Los Angeles. They eventually got together and realized a passion had been ignited.

The goal wasn’t just to create a yoga studio, but rather a place of wellness, where Torontonians could experience what the Ridout sisters experienced during their travels. What’s unique about this venture was that neither sister was a trained instructor — just entrepreneurs with a vision.

“We wanted to own a business, run the business, and create a space where people can heal, do yoga and be at peace. Look at themselves from an internal point,” she said. “And we did it! We hired teachers. We hired healing professionals. We had no experience at all. It was just a calling. “

And that was about 10 years ago.  Since then, 889 has grown immensely, while still maintaining its foundation — to inspire happy, healthy, and peaceful lives. Ridout likes to say the studio is a reflection of how both sisters have evolved. They helped create and plan a 200-hour Living Yoga School, a program that transforms yoga lovers into capable instructors. Both sisters have taken this course and are now able to teach yoga as well as meditation classes.

They have also added a storefront that sells environmentally-conscious and Canadian-focused products and are teaching a number of private classes for moms and other women that combine essential oils with meditation and breathing work. Ridout is also designing a digital platform for these programs, especially for working moms with little time to come to the studio.

Her biggest piece of advice to women entrepreneurs is to simplify, and then simplify some more. “Keep the offer as simple and clear as you can. If you think its simple enough, break it down again. It makes it simpler for people to understand and get on board.”

Ridout also wants women to focus on something they are passionate about, something that lights you up when you talk about it. “There is enough room in the world for us all to do what we believe in and do what we love. If someone else is doing it, or doing something similar, there will always be your authentic version of it.”

“If you believe in something, create it and sell it. Don’t get discouraged by people who are already “doing” your idea, or something similar, or by a fear that you’re not good enough.”

Ridout has three children, who she says help keep her present and joyful.  She is currently working through “May Cause Miracles”, a 40-day guide to reflection, change, and happiness by Gabrielle Bernstein, for the second time.

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How to deal with winter cravings

Winter can be hard. Over the past six months, you’ve been working hard, going to the gym, eating right, and then winter comes along. But, like an old friend, winter comes back into all of our lives to remind us how great carbohydrates can be. Why were you avoiding hot chocolate and marshmellows? I don’t know, it’s delicious, winter says. How about a donut or muffin with your coffee? Shouldn’t you start that Christmas baking now? I mean, it’s almost December.

Stop it winter! Just stop it! Why can’t you just let us be!

It’s the unfortunate side effect of cold weather. Our bodies tend to crave carbohydrates and sugars no matter what our brain tells us, and that can make it extremely difficult to keep on track. Luckily, Women’s Post has your back. Here are some tips to help deal with those pesky cravings:

Don’t stop working out: Did you eat half a dozen donuts last night? Well, nothing you can do about that except try to work off some of the calories. Make sure to continue hitting the gym, even if it means leaving a few minutes early to take into account the slow snow traffic. If you don’t like to make the trek to the studio, try going for a walk. Yes, it’s cold, but it’s also beautiful. Tell your honey to bring a thermos of hot chocolate and make an afternoon of it. Have a snowball fight or go tobogganing. Doesn’t matter, as long as you remain active.

Drink tea: Instead of grabbing that expensive peppermint white mocha with the extra espresso shot and mound of whip cream, try having a peppermint tea. The best part about tea is that there are so many flavours they can be substituted for dessert. How about apple or pumpkin tea? Maybe a chocolate chilli chai is what you need to warm up after time spent outside in the frigid air? Tea also has the benefit of antioxidants, which can help strengthen your immune system and aide in weight loss. Plus, it has the added benefit of tasting good too.

Take vitamin D: Yes, vitamins are annoying. It’s easy to forget to take them, but in the winter, with the clouds covering the sun, it’s extremely important. Winter can be beautiful, but it’s also quite dark, and this darkness can bring out emotions and feelings you didn’t know you had. This weather can also trigger symptoms of seasonal depression. I’m not saying taking vitamins will relieve all of those symptoms, but it will help in controlling some of those intense cravings and lifting your mood.

Try to make “healthy” versions of comfort food: There is nothing Women’s Post can tell you that will make those cravings disappear entirely, so why not indulge a bit and make healthier versions of the comfort food you desperately desire. For example, mac and cheese is a winter favourite. Instead of pasta, try using cauliflower. You can still enjoy the cheesy goodness, just without the extra carbs. Or if you must get that mocha, make it skinny.

Eat what you want, just in moderation: At the same time, don’t deprive yourself. It doesn’t work. It’s hard enough to resist the temptation to gorge on carbs and sugars without the added pressure of eliminating it entirely from your diet. Have a couple of cookies and enjoy that peppermint mocha. Just make sure not to over indulge. Plan for a small daily sweet — a cookie or a chocolate — and don’t you dare feel guilty! It’s winter for goodness sake!

 

Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below!

What to look for before signing away your life to a gym

At the beginning of November, I made the decision to get a gym membership. This wasn’t a decision I took lightly. It’s a big commitment! Not only to my health, but also to my pocketbook.

To be more fit, to take your health into your own hands, is a daunting decision. A lot of the time, people say its not worth the price. And, it may be true. A gym membership often costs an arm and a leg, and maybe a few organs. But, it doesn’t have to be so painful, not as long as you do your research and think about your choices.

It took me a few weeks of hard work to decide which gym fit my needs. Here’s what to look for before you sign the papers:

Do your research: Don’t just consider the big guns — GoodLife, YMCA, LA Fitness. Take a look at your community centres, specialized studios, and smaller gyms in your neighbourhood. Is there a gym conveniently located near your home or your work? Convenience is a bit factor. If you need to go out of your way to get to the gym, you may not go as often as you intend. Don’t rule anything out until you’ve thoroughly researched all options. You may just be surprised at what you find.

Decide what kind of workout you want: Do you want to just use a treadmill, attend classes, or get some training? If you, like me, are just looking for somewhere to do a morning run and maybe do some weights, try looking at a cheaper gym. Places like GoodLife are great if you want to take part in group fitness classes or want personal training. If you are a yoga fiend or love kickboxing, maybe look at a few specialized studios. You don’t want to waste money on a gym if you won’t enjoy going, so make sure it works for you.

Get a tour: There is a lot about a gym you can’t tell from their website. The first, and ultimately the most important, is cleanliness. Sure, a gym may be cheap, but if the machines are gross and the lighting terrible, it can be a safety hazard. You also want to make sure there is enough space to do floor work and weights, and that the staff is knowledgeable as well.

Ask about terms: Most gyms will try to lock you in to a one-year contract, but always ask about alternatives. It is sometimes a better deal to purchase a year-long contract — the gym may waive certain fees in exchange for the commitment — but be sure you are ready for it. If you cancel before the year is up, you may be subject to cancellation fees. Also know that a gym, unless the province, city, or a non-profit runs it, must give you an option of paying your membership in monthly instalments. Make sure to ask what’s included in the membership as well, because often there are often different levels that will allow access to certain locations or classes.

Cost compare: This isn’t entirely about cost. Make sure to compare multiple factors. Is the more expensive gym worth the extra money? Will you use it enough to warrant the value? How does it fit into your budget on a monthly and a yearly basis?

 

Do you have a gym membership? What were your factors in your decision?

 

Why it’s important to challenge yourself

Every once in a while I get this sinking feeling — like I’m not doing enough with my life. I go to work, I come home, and then I lie on the couch for a few hours before I go to bed. The next day, I wake up and it starts all over. It makes me think: is this all there is? Shouldn’t I be doing more with my life? Where can I go from here?

This downward spiral can lead to self doubt, anxiety, and fatigue. It prevents you from actually accomplishing your goals, and makes you feel as if the few things you’ve accomplished aren’t good enough. It’s also incredibly hard to switch off those negative thoughts.

The thing is, it’s completely natural to feel like you’re in a rut. A number of things can cause it: a stale relationship, a ho-hum work environment, or it could be things in your personal life that send you over the edge. Everyone experiences it — but it’s what we do after we realize we’re in a rut that matters.

Peg Streep, author of Mastering the Art of Quitting says the human brain is hardwired to work hard and push through despite what’s happening with your life, which may sabotage your happiness and create a cycle of negative energy. This negative energy is what causes the rut. Overthinking, overworking, not taking time for yourself — all of these things make us tired of the lives we’ve worked so hard to create.

So, what to do about it?

When I start to get into this rut, I decide to challenge myself.  I try something different each time. The first time was 30 days of yoga (I suggest You-tubing Yoga with Adriene, who is an absolutely marvellous instructor, especially for beginners). The second was a video challenge, where I had to film myself every day for a month. The third was training to run a 5k. And this time, it’s trying my hand at poetry.

For me, it’s all about setting, and completing attainable goals — it makes you feel accomplished. It’s like creating a to-do list and then crossing items off. Except, instead of “send email to boss” or “do laundry”, these are life goals. At the same time, they are doable. These goals are tough, but are easy enough to complete within a month or so.  A lot of people will try to set a number of goals to accomplish at the same time (eat right, go to gym three times a week, learn a foreign language, etc ). The problem is that a full body and mind transformation takes a lot of time and patience, and if you aren’t ready for that type of commitment, you’ll just end up overwhelmed and discouraged. Go one challenge at a time and you’ll get to that end-goal, I promise you!

It’s also about pushing yourself slightly outside your comfort zone. Now, I’m not suggesting you leap out of a plane to conquer your fear of heights, but rather take small steps to push yourself in creative and impassioned ways. Understanding what keeps you within your comfort zone is equally as important as pushing yourself outside of it.

For me, running a 5k, doing yoga, writing poetry, all of these are things that are small, simple, and personalized to my specific goals — to be healthy and to develop my creativity. I’m not running a marathon. I’m not becoming a published novelist. I’m not establishing a completely zen mentality. I’m changing, slowly and at the right pace for me. At the same time, I’m challenging myself! I’m not an athletic person, nor a particularly creative one, so these goals really do force me to work hard and carve out time for myself.

At the end of the day, I enjoy these ruts. Sure, they are terrible for the first few weeks while you figure out your feelings, but they inspire creativity and give me an opportunity to re-evaluate my life. And with that creativity comes a new mentality.

Suddenly, anything is possible!

How do you deal with your rut? What are the goals you’ve set for yourself? Let us know in the comments below!