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Change up your cardio with interval training

I saw this on a card from a gag shop: two hamsters standing in front of wheel. One hamster is saying, “First I do one hour of cardio then I do two hours of cardio then I do one hour of cardio…”. Funny, isn’t it? There’s truth to it. So many people put in time at the gym working up a sweat, eyes glued to the calorie counter, desperately hoping that their hour of cardio is over sooner rather than later.

In the first column I wrote for Women’s Post, I put forth the idea that doing more weight training and less cardio would help women reach their typical goals (fat loss) quicker and reduce stress on their bodies comparatively. Despite favouring weight training, I still think that it’s important to train your heart. However, I think that you can do it in far less time than the typical hour of low-intensity cardio and you can do in a way that gives you a hormonal boost which will trigger fat loss.

What I’m hinting at here is interval or “burst” training. It takes no time at all to do but it sure is ugly. If you’re unfamiliar with it, interval training is alternating short bursts of intense cardio (one minute or less typically) with recovery periods of approximately equal length. Interval training is short on time and high on intensity. For example, after an adequate warm-up, you might sprint for one minute and walk for one minute (local tracks are a perfect spot for this) and repeat five times or so. An interval workout can be as short as 10 minutes. It tends to be less popular among gym-going people because the effort level is decidedly uncomfortable. Most people would rather cruise on an elliptical for an hour than endure 10 minutes of all-out effort. That’s a shame because the effects are totally different.

Firstly, interval training conditions the cardiovascular system much more effectively because it presents a legitimate challenge to the heart and lungs that requires them to adapt. When you’re cruising on the elliptical, you’re not demanding much of your body so none of your tissues are required to change for the better. Secondly, interval training prompts a cascade of hormones that give you a metabolic edge. Among them is growth hormone which is known to help the body burn fat and build muscle. Moreover, because interval workouts are so short they don’t let the body get to the point of releasing cortisol, the major stress (and fat-packing) hormone, which can happen during longer bouts of cardio.

I suggest that you give interval training a go, provided you slowly build up your intensity level so that your body can handle maximum effort. You’ll see better results in a shorter period of time. But don’t expect to look pretty doing it.

Real life real estate

I’m a sucker for real estate reality television. Property Virgins, House Hunters, and 2 a.m. reruns of the Property Shop – I live for these shows, and always love watching couples and families go through the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, all to finally find the property of their dreams, and right on budget too.

As a real estate agent though, sometimes I have to giggle at how easy it seems. House showings to key pickup, all wrapped up in a 22 minute time slot. Of course, with the time limitations, there isn’t enough time to get into the intricacies of a normal, average real estate transaction, but I imagine that most viewers who haven’t actually been through the process might romanticize the experience with the information provided on these shows.

In the real world, the process can take months. Buyers have to talk to financial professionals to apply and qualify for financing or a mortgage, and then find the right agent with knowledge of their circumstances, their needs, and the area that they’re looking to purchase in. Then there are the house showings. On television, they show three houses and decide between the given options. I’ve had clients go on as many as 15 showings before deciding on a property, and rightly so. This is not a pair of shoes, this is a home, for families with children, dogs named Rover and cats named Meow. While timing can be of the essence when it comes to getting your home once you’ve decided on a property, finding the right home for you is a process that in my opinion shouldn’t be rushed or double-guessed.

Even after getting an approved offer, we’re often not ready to pick up the keys just yet. Accepted offers are usually “conditional”, meaning we now have to deal with home inspectors, appraisals, and final steps for financing. Your dream home might end up being a nightmare property if an inspector turns up foundation issues or termites, so there’s usually a period of time when a buyer can walk away from a property.

But I’ve seen firsthand how these shows have affected the real estate market in a very real way. Buyers and sellers are more educated now, and real estate professionals have been forced to step up their game. Sellers understand the value of “curb appeal” and not having animals or dirty laundry in the home during showings. Buyers are learning to see past superficial things like bad paint colours and minor improvements to see how a home can be made to fit them. Knowledge is power, and in the real estate game it can be the difference between a make or break deal.

All in all, these shows, by necessity due to timing and probably in large part entertainment, are condensed versions of what to expect when you’re purchasing a property. I take whatever lessons I can from real estate powerhouses like Tatiana Londono, but in the end, I really just take it for what it is: entertainment. Good, clean, funny, exciting, licorice and white cheddar popcorn on a Thursday night entertainment, and I love every second.

The push and pull of blog promotion: Part 2

After making progress with the art of pushing blog content to readers, it was time to drag more people directly to my blog. I required readers on my blog in order to increase the odds of collecting valuable feedback about the writing content, and to build momentum for future advertising revenue opportunities. To drag readers to my blog, I employed the strategies of pull marketing, with a ’social’ flare.

Social-izing Pull Marketing

Including the post link in a communication is intended to pull viewers directly to your content. An interest-sparking headline or lead-in prompts the reader to click to follow the content. If the writing fulfills its promise, visitors might be motivated to read other posts and become dedicated followers. If there are ads on the site that entice, viewer clicks may earn income for blog ads that represent a revenue source.

Pulling readers to your blog site provides the opportunity to create more loyal followers and potential for ad clicks. Since most advertising deals pay per click, more volume equals greater revenue. Once a viewer is on your site, they may also ‘like’, ‘share’ and ‘tweet’ your content so that other members of their network learn about the blog. Referrals are a great way to gain new readers. Having the credibility of the source contact increases the odds of connecting with their network audience.

The downside of pull marketing is relying on continued revisits from your readers. Since they will not be receiving an email or RSS feed notifying of the new post, their loyalty must be relied upon. This strategy requires them to make a decision to view each time they see notice of a new post through social media. To increase the odds they will continue to make an affirmative choice, quality post announcements are essential.

With pull promotion, the pitch that entices a reader to click must be enticing and succinct. For example, I recently wrote a blog post asking for opinions about telling my 8 year old how the Easter Bunny really delivers goodies to our home. The other option I have to deal with the truth is waiting until she hears something at school and decides to ask me. My actual question to readers was, “Do I tell my daughter the truth about the Easter Bunny?” My social media pitch, along with the blog link was, “Do I tell?”

Both are truthful, which is vital. A pitch that suggests something untrue about the content will make the reader feel they have been tricked into visiting your blog. The second pitch is more tempting for a wider audience of readers. If a reader is not interested in weighing in on the Easter Bunny decision, there is still the opportunity to entice them with another post on the site, since the pitch pulled them to your vast collection of content.

To push or to pull – that is the question. The answer is both. A balanced combination of both strategies will maximize the outcome. The size and quality of the promotion investment will be reflected in the results. The cost of marketing your blog content is almost entirely human resources. It takes a significant amount of time on the social media sites to organically develop relationships that are authentic.

Each site has its communication methods, language and etiquette. Social media experts debate the pros and cons of repeating content on multiple social media platforms. One point all social savvy individuals seem to agree on is the inevitable importance of these platforms for any business to compete.

 

Next column: Tweet to Compete

The push and pull of blog promotion: Part 1

How could I grow my blog audience? Outside of the following of friends, family and colleagues, it was time to source methods of attracting new readers. I had been using Facebook for the sole purpose of social connecting. I had registered a Twitter handle months before, but had sent fewer than a dozen tweets. I was intimidated by the new language and etiquette that were quite foreign.

It was time to marry my traditional marketing experience with practical use of social media. I needed to find ways to both get the posts out to readers and bring them directly to the blog site. This stage of “going social” started to feel like I was driving in my own lane again.

I went to my marketing roots for direction. Traditional marketing defines the push and pull strategy as the seller’s push of a product or service to the consumer, compared to the pull of said commodity by that consumer. The push could be a store sending me a flyer to sell shoes, versus my pull of calling the store to inquire about a sale of shiny red pumps.

Social media adds a new layer to push and pull marketing. It drives consumers to action from the convenience of their own computer, tablet or smartphone. Books are downloaded and read without ever visiting the bookstore. Travel is arranged over the internet and via email communications. Merchants for clothing, jewelry and so much more rely on the ability to both push offers to buyers and pull buyers to their sites for instant deals to be closed.

TIP: In this era of immediate gratification, it is more critical than ever for sellers to have a succinct pitch to ignite that deal. After much trial and error, I learned to spark interest in 100 words or less.

Social-izing my push marketing

Posting a picture or details of a promotion pushes product over social media to potential buyers. One may choose to receive information from a supplier by being a Twitter follower or ‘liking’ a business page on Facebook. A seller may expect you are a partially qualified purchaser, in that you have indicated an interest by agreeing to participate.

In order for a prospect to gain qualifications, a seller needs to know if they are interested in the product or service, do they have the authority to make a purchase decision, and do they have the funds to buy. If the supplier has created a “sponsored post” on Facebook or a “promoted Tweet” on Twitter, the audience is unqualified and considered mass market, with which the deal close ratio is much smaller.

I wasn’t ready to invest cash into a sponsored promotion. Since I needed the practical experience with Facebook and Twitter, I invested many hours of my time learning the tricks of the tools. Once the skills started to develop, both sites became rather addicting. Making likeminded connections is a natural activity. Learning to authentically attract followers to push content toward took more time.

Communicating on ‘The Social’ needs to be true to its name, social communication. The conversation is friendly chitchat where people with common interests share thoughts, quotes and resources that might be of importance to the audience. The goal is motivating people to sign up for your blog without sounding like you are begging for followers or being too pushy.

The benefit of pushing content out is the consistency of reader contact. The blogger maintains control of how often content is viewed. It is critical to achieve balance between keeping the audience interested and informed, yet avoiding inundating them with an overwhelming amount of information and risking pushing them away. Empathy is a key quality in achieving that balance. Put yourself in the position of your audience. Does your content offer something beneficial or is it completely self-serving? Followers want to know that they are being put first.

The downside of push marketing is that you are playing on the purchaser’s turf, as opposed to your own. For example, pushing out an email or RSS feed sends the most current content to a reader, but it does not entice the audience with other posts or advertisements that might be seen if the reader was pulled to your own blog site.

Part two of promotion will explore how I went from “being pushy” to dragging people to my blog with pull marketing tactics. Subtlety is not my greatest strength, but I’m adjusting.

 

Next column: The Push and Pull of Blog Promotion: Part 2

Living by the 80/20 rule

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that so much of life these days is about “more “: do more, live more, work more, be even more than what everyone expects. One hundred percent is not quite enough.

I have seen this, too, in how some people approach their diet, or in how they think they need to be approaching changes toward a healthier lifestyle. There is merit in being able to embrace a lifestyle concept entirely and live by it with full force but it is a rare individual who can go cold turkey from old habits. It can be quite stressful to do a complete overhaul; rebound binges may occur and guilt becomes yet another emotional hurdle to overcome. It can also be socially restrictive, preventing someone from being able to enjoy an evening out at a restaurant or at a friend’s house for dinner.

I like to support the 80/20 rule of living, especially when it comes to diet. The idea is that most of the time (this can be anywhere from 80% to 95% for a given period of time), I eat very nutrient-dense, clean food such as organic produce, cold-water fish that is simply prepared, and creative vegan meals. For a meat-eater this may also include organically-raised chicken or grass-fed beef. I stay hydrated with filtered water or herbal teas—my current favourite is Tulsi/Holy Basil. I can honestly say that I really enjoy eating this way and I certainly feel better for it. Over years of steady transition from what is the Standard (North) American Diet, my palate has adapted so that these foods are what I crave most.

The other 5-20% of the time, I am able to enjoy some of life’s indulgences. Here’s my confession:  the neighbourhood bakery makes really delicious, sinful brownies so I treat myself to one every month or so. I relish times spent with friends over some wine and a meal that they have lovingly prepared. There are also those nights, usually once a week, when neither my husband nor I are in the mood to prepare a meal so a local restaurant serves up a nice break from cooking.

The catch of course is being honest with yourself about on which side of the dividing line your choices lie. Is your 80/20 more of a 60/40 right now? That’s okay. As long as you know what your goals are and what your true starting point is, you can get to 80/20 by making small, steady changes over time. Then you CAN have your small piece of cake and eat it too.

 

 

 

 

Win inner peace

This is your chance to win a spot in the very exclusive fall Shanti Yoga retreat organized by Cruda Cafe. On October 18-20, expert yoga guide Paula Marin will guide you through a weekend of yoga and meditation designed to bring you inner peace while executive chef Claudia Gaviria cooks you meals that will convert you to the raw food diet. Only eight spots are available for the whole retreat, so don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to win one. Enter today!

Contest Rules & Regulations:
Contestants must reside in Canada (excluding Quebec) to be eligible to win
Contestants must be 18 or older
Contestants are eligible to enter 1x daily (further entries will not be counted)
Contest closes on Wednesday, October 16th, at 12 p.m.

This contest is now closed. Thanks for entering!

CONTEST: Win a Christopher Kon bag from the Saddle Bag!

Want to get your hands on the hottest selling bag this season?  Well, Women’s Post and The Saddle Bag are giving you the chance to win this Christopher Kon leather beauty. Plus, as an added bonus, all contest entrants will receive a 15% discount coupon to use towards their purchase of a new handbag at The Saddle Bag (valid until November 30, 2013 and excludes LeSportsac). Support Canadian entrepreneurs and enter today!Contest Rules & Regulations:
Contestants must reside in Canada (excluding Quebec) to be eligible to win
Contestants must be 18 or older
Contestants are eligible to enter 1x daily (further entries will not be counted)
Contest closes on Monday, October 14th, at 5 p.m.

 

This contest is now closed, thanks for entering!

Women of the week: Maryam and Nargues Mansouri

I meet the Mansouri sisters in the presentation gallery of the Perry. Stunningly gorgeous, it is a great illustration of why they are the builders to watch in today’s condo market.

Maryam and Nargues Mansouri are easily recognizable as siblings, sharing a cup of tea and playfully interrupting each other throughout the interview. But this familial dynamic does not affect their work environment. In fact, as the sisters tell it, it helps.

“Siblings bicker here and there and I think as part of the work experience and work life it’s easier to tell your partner how you feel about certain situations rather than keeping things pent up and inside.”

“We’re really honest with each other. It’s not rivalry though, because we’re all on the same team, trying to get to the same goal,” Nargues says.

“We have a really good dynamic and fit,” Maryam adds.

As co-vice-presidents of Mansouri Living, they take on a company created by their father, Sharok. According to the sisters, it was “really natural” for them to join the family business. As children, Maryam and Nargues were often taken by their father to sites to see what he was currently developing. “We were always surrounded by it growing up,” Nargues says.

Both are heavily involved in every step of the Perry’s development, yet each sister chose to explore different areas of the field academically and focus more on the areas that hold their strengths. This was a choice made with solid logic as, as Maryam explains, “You have an incredible mind when it comes to business and numbers and finance and legal so you get it when I don’t, and likewise.”

Their great dynamic and combined grasp of the overall process is vital, given the competition they are up against. Toronto has an oversaturated housing market, with more condos under development that any other city in North America.

“From the beginning we knew it was going to be an issue, so we really tried to make the Perry different. It came down to the finishes, the scale, the location. Just the details we put into every single suite, regardless of the size,” Nargues says.

The result is a design that encapsulates the word elegance. People who come to live in the Perry get beautifully designed suites furnished by Poliform, a membership to the Perry’s executive concierge service, Quintessentially, and access to the building’s incredible extra features, which include a piano lounge and the serenity garden.

What’s a serenity garden? This feature of the building was designed to serve as an oasis to today’s busy business life. The logic behind it: “Take 10 minutes to relax and that makes all the difference,” Nargues says. To businesswomen who spend so much time in the concrete jungle, it is the ideal escape.

As well, the Perry was designed with sustainability in mind. This, the Mansouris stress, was very important. Plumbing and lighting choices were made to create an environmentally-sound structure and green products were (and are) used throughout the building.

In such a competitive market, it is fantastic to see two women rise above the pack and create an all-around quality condo residence that people will be happy to call home. Watch for the Perry as it joins the ranks of successful condo developments. And watch for Maryam and Nargues Mansouri as they join the ranks of real estate titans.