Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Round-Up

(human furniture - think these would look great in my living room!)

Here marks the end of another busy week, including my mention in The Toronto Star, which was very exciting for me.  The weekend looks to be sunny and warm here in Toronto - some garden maintenance and painting is in store for me.  Hope you enjoyed the blog this week - also don't forget to enter the Alyson Schafer competition, which closes at the end of today.

Here are some fun articles from this weeks news:

This might be the funniest or funkiest treadmill workout I have seen.

Jamie Oliver has constantly slagged off Mickey Dees for years (much to my delight) but now it appears he has had a change of heart!

So much information out there on what we are supposed to eat and which diets are the best, its just confusing. Check out this article that busts some of those dieting myths.

Double-down to a bunless chicken sarnie at KFC - puke!!! no thanks, even though this is in aid of the Food Bank.

This is a fascinating story of a hermit from India who has survived for 70 years without food and water! Totally amazing all doctors and military officials.  I don't know how he does it, I can hardly survive 20 mins without a cuppa!

Pepsico are getting in on the obesity soapbox, claiming that if we all just exercised then we would get fat.  In a bid to raise sales to $30 million of the 'good for you foods'. Some of the comments to this article are interesting.

Happy reading, have a great weekend and see you next week.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Free Workout Thursday!

No equipment required for this bodyweight circuit training workout. I have included hyperlinks to exercise examples, where I think you might need them.

This is a pretty hard workout, so for the first time through, try this at 30 seconds work and 10 secs rest, rather than 50 seconds.  For the inverted row, you can do this under your kitchen table, or do your chin-ups on the monkey bars - there is no excuse!!!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Honey I Wrecked The Kids!

Its a great title isn't it? - and its also a great book too!!

I have two young boys and sometimes have absolutely no idea what I am doing! - Should I give them time-outs? Reward their good efforts?  Stop yelling and getting frustrated with them?  There is so much advice out there its just confusing, this is where I find Alysons approach refreshing.  

Alyson encourages you to give your kids responsibility, show them compassion and help them make good decisions, all with a sense of humour. She has a common-sense approach that is easy to follow and with great results (ie kids that are nice to have around!!)

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of the nation’s leading parenting experts.  She is the best selling author of “ Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids”.  She is the host of “The Parenting Show” on Roger’s TV.  Alyson has also appeared on such well known shows as Montel William’s, Steven and Chris, The National, The Agenda and Breakfast Television. She is quoted widely in such magazines as Cosmopolitian, Reader’s Digest, Today’s Parent, Canadian Family, Canadian Living and more.

This book is a MUST HAVE for parents of kids all ages.  Want to get your hands on a copy?

Alyson is giving away 2 signed copies of this book. Simply leave a comment and I will randomly pick 2 winners by close of day Friday 30th April.

for more parenting tips and advice check out

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Foxy Lara Bars

(here are coconut/almond and cherry w. toasted almond/cashew)

As soon as I had finished my Crossfit session last Saturday, I knew I would faint unless I ate something! Luckily they had some Lara bars on hand to stop me from passing out.

Not sure if you have ever tried a Lara Bar (it was my first taste) but they are great post-workout snacks, because they are basically made up from; nuts, fruit and spices. REAL FOOD!

As well as being really delicious, the company boosts the follow claims; 
Unprocessed - Raw - Non- GMO - Gluten Free - Dairy Free - Soy Free - Vegan - Kosher.  
The main problem with these bars is that they cost around $2 - $2.50 each!!  

The ingredients are so simple, that I figured I could just make my own version, and I was very pleased with the results. My kids even loved them.

So here's how to make them, no cooking, just grab your food processor and lets go!!

Ingredients: This makes approx 3 - 4 bars
1 cup dates chopped
1/4 cup of dried cherries 
1/3 cup of toasted almonds, raw cashews
small handful of unsweetened coconut
1 tsp coconut oil (optional)

- blitz dates and cherries in the food processor until a paste, then set aside in a bowl
- no need to clean out food processor, just add the nuts and coconut and pulse until finely chopped
- mixed chopped nuts by hand into the paste
- now shape into rounds or bar-shapes and wrap in cling-film (plastic wrap).
- store in fridge until ready to scoff!!

Alternative flavours:
try adding/replacing the following ingredients to the basic recipe of 1 cup dates to 1/3 cup nuts.

pecans, apricots, carob chips, cranberries, raisins, cinnamon, ginger, grated lemon rind (small amount of juice)

if you have any other variation please let me know!

Date facts:
Dates also contain vitamins A1, B1, B2, B3, B5, C and more than 20 different amino acids; they help in the digestion and assimilation of carbohydrates, and help to regulate blood sugar levels and fatty acids content in our bodies.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Orthorexia - are you obsessed with healthy foods?

Orthorexia is an obsessive-compulsive disorder that creates severe phobias about eating impure, unhealthy food. Most experts still think orthorexia is part of anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder whose sufferers obsess about the amount of food they eat and their body weight, rather than an independent disorder.  People are becoming so obsessed what is in their food, wanting only 'pure' foods, that this is leading to severe malnutrition.
I watched Food Inc. recently and was just horrified at what I saw.  Seriously you need to eat a big meal before watching it as you won't want to eat again for a few days afterwards. The result is a haunting documentary looking into the North American food system - one of the most corporate controlled, unhealthiest, cruellest food systems on the planet. 

I am pretty healthy when it comes to my diet, but I can see how people can become worried and anxious when we see just how food is produced.  When it comes to food I indulge in moderation and try to make good choices.

Has this documentary had a lasting effect on you?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy St Georges Day

Today is the National Day of England - St Georges Day!

Who was St George?
St. George is the patron saint of England. His emblem, a red cross on a white background, is the flag of England, and part of the British flag. St George's emblem was adopted by Richard The Lion Heart and brought to England in the 12th century. The king's soldiers wore it on their tunics to avoid confusion in battle.

Like England, every country in the UK has its own patron saint who in times of great peril is called upon to help save the country from its enemies.

Here are some other interesting articles from the weeks news;

As usual I continue to be inspired by people climbing big high things - but this guy really is Potty!!
Coming back to Toronto has also brought me back to my dreaded allergies, which are fairly new to me, I never suffered from them in the UK (different trees maybe?) But don't these invisible enemies looks cool?

I need some new trainers for the gym, these are quite fancy don't you think!

I love to cook, but I won't be able to buy this book. While drinking this coffee - YUK! I don't think so.

And finally, talk about the adverse effects of using gym equipment, the most notorious gangster in Australia has been found dead, beaten to death my a piece of an exercise bike.

Have a good weekend folks, and raise a beer to celebrate my country's national day.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Zico Coconut Water

I was in my local bulk store at the weekend and spotted Zico Premium Coconut Water, on offer for $1!! So I purchased a couple of cartons for a little taste test of my own.  I have been feeling pretty crappy since coming back from the UK, a combination of being hit with allergies and just feeling toxic from all the naughty food I ate!

I have previously written about coconuts and their amazing properties - but had never actually drunk the water as a sports drink.  It is naturally produced and has zero fat, is a great source of magnesium, potassium and other natural electrolytes and has a low ph acidity level.

Taste?  Its delicious!! I tried the Original and Mango flavours. Really refreshing and light. Definitely a product to have in the fridge to add to your post-workout smoothies or even cure a hangover!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dragon Boat Team Workout Sessions

A friend of mine is a member of The New Dragons, who are the current -23 National Dragon Boat Champions! As a fund raiser for the Club Crew World Championships in Macau, the team are offering fun and challenging outdoor fitness classes, which are adapted from their own training techniques.

These classes are to be held on Sundays at 3pm @ Winston Churchill Park, Toronto - starting April 25 until July 18th. Classes cost $15 per session, with the 5th session being free.

I can't make the first session, but plan on testing out my fitness levels the following week. Hope to see you there!! It should be lots of fun.

see after the jump for more information:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Embrace Your Inner Caveman!

Ever heard of the Paleo Diet? During my searching on TOO MANY fitness and nutrition sites, I have come across many different diets or eating habits. But when I came across the Paleo Diet, I had to do some research, this one was new to me, and I might add, I don't think it appeals to me at all.

Here is some background:

  • It is a simple dietary lifestyle that is based the Paleolithic Era (in) foods that we ate prior to agriculture and animal husbandry (meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruit, berries, mushrooms, etc.). And the Neolithic Era (out) foods that result from agriculture or animal husbandry (grains, dairy, beans/legumes, potatoes, sugar and fake foods).
  • Under the paleo concept the quantities consumed of each “in” food is up to the individual. You can make it meat heavy if you want, or more fruit and veggies if you prefer, as long as the foods you eat are paleo. Fruits in the Paleolithic would have been tart and smaller, and you may want to limit modern fruit because of this.
  • Only oils from fruit and nut trees are acceptable ie. olive, avocado, coconut.
  • Meat should be wild game, but as a substitute grass-fed meat is allowed.
actually the list goes on, if you are interested here is the Paleo website and check out the top 10 Paleo foods here.

It seems that the crowd over at CrossFit are big proponents of this diet, along with some triathletes.  It seems to be to be similar to the Atkins diet, although possibly a little more restrictive.

Want to know how to be a modern day cavemen? check out these city-slickers.

I hate being restricted in my food choices - life is just TOO SHORT!  I am a big proponent of avoiding processed food.  I have to eat, wherever possible, home-cooked and  healthy food - and this diet looks just too boring for me - there has to be some joy in food don't you think?

Do you have an opinion?

(google image)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Crossfit Newbie

(Crossfit Muscle-up at Santa Cruz facility)

On Saturday afternoon, my pal over at Urbanfitt, Jane Clapp, invited me to try out a Crossfit session at The Academy of Lions facility in downtown Toronto. I was keen to give it a go, as I have read so many positive and negative reports on this style of fitness - I wanted to forge my own opinions.

As we sat in the car waiting for the class to start, slurping on our javas, we see our instructor for the day, Sara-Clare, screaming encouraging CF participants who were struggling down the sidewalk with a kettlebell in each hand - it was like something out of Full Metal Jacket! This was going to be interesting!!!

I loved Sara-Clare, she had the perfect energy and knowledge to make this a memorable class.  This is how the class was broken down:
300 reps skipping
pvc tube shoulder mobility exercises 
10 leg swings forward/back each side
10 legs swings across body each side

my thoughts: loved the pvc tube shoulder mobility exercises, one called figure 8 was amazing.

dynamic session:
10 kipping pull-ups
10 dips using the rings
10 sit-ups - using a round mat to support lower back

my thoughts: if the exercises were out of your scope, resistance bands were used. I tried kipping and it was surprisingly tough!! It certainly didn't feel like cheating, but rather a totally different exercise to regular pull-ups.  I think I could have lived without the sit-ups even with the lower back support. I am just not a fan anymore!

the workout:
3 - 5 rounds of
20 kettlebell swings
15 box jumps
10 sit-ups
5 burpees

my thoughts: This was tough!  I wasn't on top form starting the session, but still tried my best. Completing 5 rounds felt great and the instructors were really encouraging.

We all have people we look up to and the fitness & strength professionals who I admire have pretty strong views on Crossfit because of its programming, claiming it to be senseless and random - and ultimately unsafe.


Alwyn Cosgrove notes that this "all over the place" programming can be dangerous:
"A recent CrossFit workout was 30 reps of snatches with 135 pounds. A snatch is an explosive exercise designed to train power development. Thirty reps is endurance. You don't use an explosive exercise to train endurance; there are more effective and safer choices.
"Another one was 30 muscle-ups. And if you can't do muscle-ups, do 120 pull-ups and 120 dips. It's just random; it makes no sense. Two days later the program was five sets of five in the push jerk with max loads. That's not looking too healthy for the shoulder joint if you just did 120 dips 48 hours ago."

Mike Boyle adds, "I think high-rep Olympic lifting is dangerous. Be careful with CrossFit."

And here's Charles Poliquin: "If you try to do everything in your workout, you get nothing. CrossFit is different, and maybe even fun for some people, but it's not very effective. No athlete has ever gotten good training like that."

The WODs come straight from CF headquarters, but it's up to individual trainers to decide how they're used. Many of these trainers are officially certified by CrossFit, but that means less than it seems. For $1,000, you can earn CrossFit's Level 1 certification in a single weekend course. (Level 2 costs $500, and subsequent certifications cost $250.) That includes lectures and hands-on demonstrations, but no written test.
No one argues that CrossFit workouts aren't challenging. They sure as hell are. The question is over the disconnect between "hard" and "smart." The truth is that every veteran strength coach I interviewed who's familiar with CF had serious reservations about its programs.

Click here to read the rest of this article from tmuscle.


I won't be joining the Crossfit community for the following reasons;

  • even though I loved my workout, but I don't love the lack of structure - I like to program my workouts and see results over the 4-6 week period. 
  • Its too bloody expensive
  • I think maintaining that type of workout 5 x per week is just not maintainable.  I don't see anywhere in the program that leans towards hypertrophy, the need to build lean muscle mass.
but that doesn't mean this method of training is not for you, just make sure;
  • you find a method of exercise that works for you, do it, if something doesn't, drop it.
  • if something injures you, either you're doing it wrong (therefore learn to do it properly) or it's not for you, either currently or at any stage in your training. Always make sure you trust and believe in the instructor. Are they safe? Are they educated?
  • just because someone else doesn't agree with what you are doing does not mean that they have no valid opinions. You can still learn from them.

Friday, April 16, 2010

5 Ways To Boost Your Brainpower

Since having both kids my ability to retain any information has disappeared. I think I would struggle to keep up with the memory capabilities of a goldfish.

I know there are a few different ways of keeping the old gray matter buzzing, by doing puzzles (I like sudoku),  reading and getting enough sleep (this I find easy) but none seem to really make me any sharper!!

Womens Health have recommended 5 ways get you smart - check it out!

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I Eat Well

Thanks Geoff Girvitz of Bang Fitness and Kyle Bryon Nutritionist for todays article.

One of the most frequent comments we hear from new members is, “I eat pretty well.”

Truth be told, this is rarely the case. The legacy of the 1980s – ideas about low-fat, low-protein, high-carbohydrate diets – lives on. This means that a lot of people are barking up the wrong tree. Half the time, they’re in the wrong goddamned forest. And since we can’t optimize their fitness until we optimize their nutrition, we obviously care about this a lot.

Sometimes knowledge is the limiting factor. Sometimes the issues run deeper. When I saw that comedian Jeff Garlin, an admitted food addict, wrote a book on trying to lose weight I ordered a copy. I wanted to understand things from the perspective of someone whose struggles with more than just finding the right information. Jeff Garlin is the man for that. Fortunately, he’s also funny as hell, which makes for an easy read.

Early in the book, Garlin decides to turn over a new leaf. He begins a diet and exercise regime in earnest. When I see what he’s doing, though, I shudder a bit. Not in horror, but because I feel bad. Garlin is a likable guy and I’m rooting for him. The thing is that not only is he doing a terrible job, he’s making things way harder than they need to be.

Since Garlin’s diet represents what a whole lot of people would describe as “eating pretty well,” I showed it to nutritionist, Kyle Byron. Before I tell you what he said, I want you to look at it and judge it for yourself.

The meal diary

Breakfast goat yogurt, 3 clementines, 1/2 navel orange
Snack salt free soup (1 oz meat?), fruit
Lunch large salad (1 oz meat? 1 tsp oil?)
Pm salt free soup
Dinner brown rice, cauliflower

All healthy, right? High marks?

Kyle’s response?

It’s a great example of this concept: healthy foods in the wrong portions = a terrible nutrition plan. I see it often. People will say, “I eat very healthy – same breakfast everyday – oats, berries, and organic yogurt, and that keeps me full for six hours.”

I never know quite what to say.

Of course, I know what I’d say to Jeff Garlin (Jeff, I hope you’re reading this): Although this plan will facilitate initial weight loss, it is unbalanced and unsustainable. You are at a huge risk of rebound weight gain.

Your meal plan:
- Repeatedly spikes your insulin causing metabolic fat gains
- Starves you so you can’t build (or even maintain) muscle mass, which you need to boost metabolism. This is integral for losing weight and keeping it off.
- Puts you in a negative protein balance so you can’t feel full or repair tissue (muscle) damaged from exercise
- Taxes your entire body due to insufficient essential fats and vitamins for cellular and neurological health
- Substantially increases your rebound risks due to unnecessary restriction

It was Kyle’s last point about unnecessary restriction that really got me thinking. Garlin’s meal plan is zero fun. It’s unbelievably strict. But it’s not as if it’s strict with a commensurate payoff. If you wanted to do just as badly, you could do so with cake included! No wonder people fall of the wagon. I’d throw myself off.

What about the exercise?

Garlin’s tried more than a few things, from Richard Simmons to Pilates. When he describes his regimen in the book, it often says something like:

45 minutes of cardio, 30 minute swim
45 minutes of cardio, stretching, ab work
45 minutes on a stationary bike, 60 minutes of Pilates

Once again, this type of exercise structure is fairly in-line with the status quo. In other words, it’s ass-backwards.

Here’s my advice to Jeff Garlin:

Read Alwyn Cosgrove’s Hierarchy of Fat-Loss. From that, you will come to understand that, of all the possible things you can do to lose fat, low-intensity work is last on the list. Don’t get me wrong; it’s on the list, just a lot further down than you might expect.

Your exercise program:

- Fails to increase lean muscle mass and therefore raise your resting metabolism (what we do for a few hours per week in the gym is small potatoes compared to what happens outside of it)
- Does not even temporarily increase the body’s use of fat as an energy source.
- Combined with a low-fat diet may actually increase the body’s drive to store fat
- Burns a relatively low number of calories per hour. While this may be necessary for a de-conditioned person, it is likely far less efficient than necessary
- Seems to assume that abdominal fat-loss can be facilitated with abdominal exercises (that’s a whole can of worms)

Obviously, there’s a whole lot going wrong. If you’re anything like Jeff Garlin, though, there’s some good news here: vastly improving your results is not only simple, it’s easy.

Kyle’s fixes:

Here are some simple substitutions. With five changes I can transform what Jeff Garlin’s eating into a pretty decent meal plan.

goat yogurt, 3 clementines, 1/2 navel orange
- change goat yogurt to pressed cottage cheese
- add 1 tbsp of essential oil

salt free soup (1 oz meat?), fruit
- add 1-3 cups veggies

large salad (1 oz meat? 1 tsp oil?)
- add 2/3 cup lentils if that’s not already in there.

salt free soup
- the change at am snack goes here too. Same pot, same change.

brown rice, cauliflower
- add 8 oz salmon

Kyle makes it clear that he can’t take a terrible diet and fix it one session. It overwhelms people and is simply not his practice. He points to the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating program as a testament to the success of small consistent changes and working with a coach.

My fixes:
Adding three to four resistance training sessions per week would be the first step. Priority should be given to free weight exercises that require compound movements. These should be put back to back in order to maximize efficiency. Changing the cardio work to high intensity interval training (HIIT) will also have a profound effect on the effectiveness of this program. However, it should be placed after his resistance training. If all of that gets done and there’s still time and desire to perform low-intensity cardio work . . . Well, go crazy!

If there’s one thing you should take away from the process of Kyle and I busting Jeff Garlin’s fitness chops (we do it because we like you, big guy!) it’s this: improving your body composition can be faster than you might expect. Even better, it can be a whole lot easier. You can get fit without feeling like you’ve been handed down a prison sentence. The right expertise means that you’ll be able to reach your fitness goals and still enjoy life. Our clients do this every day. So can you.

Geoff Girvitz and Kyle Byron

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What personality type are you?

I love this personality test from the LA times.  Its fun to do because it is all visual.  Rather than answer questions with words, you select an image that most suits you.  According to this I am a Hot Shot!

You're quite a traditionalist at heart. You're ambitious and confident and you want it all- a brilliantly successful career, a fabulously varied social life and a happy home buzzing with energy and warmth. And why not? You have the drive and determination to achieve your goals as well as having lots of fun along the way. It's all about achieving the perfect life-work balance. Vacations are definitely a top priority and you love experiencing new destinations that offer the perfect combo of pampering and discovery.
You tend to display extrovert characteristics and thrive in big social settings. You're a bit of a bookworm at heart. You probably have a good pile of books by the bed and maybe even a few on-the-go at once! However hectic life seems, you always manage to find a window in your schedule for some quality downtime. You're a bit of a romantic at heart. Fun for you tends to have a traditional flavor. It's about those special moments when you feel like you've traveled back in time. Hot Shot I'm quite a traditionalist at heart. I'm ambitious and confident and want it all - a brilliantly successful career, a fabulously varied social life and a happy home buzzing with energy and warmth.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Epic journeys

Well thats me well and truly back from my trip to the UK. As usual it seemed like a whirlwind trip fitting in all the family and catching up with old friends.  We split the trip into two halves this time, spending half with my family in the North East of England, the second half of the holiday with my husbands family in the Lake District.  

If you have never been to the Lakes, then you should! Its a beautiful part of the country with so much to do and see.  We took the kids on hikes, on a steam train, a cruise across Lake Windermere, which is 11 miles in length and is Englands biggest natural lake - this should make all you Canadians chuckle, thats almost like a paddling pool for you.

Englands highest mountain is also in the Lakes, Scafell Pike which is 3200 feet. I have climbed it a few times now, the most memorable being at 5am in the morning, during my 3 Peaks Challenge. Here you climb all of the biggest peaks in the UK, which are; Ben Nevis (Scotland), Scafell Pike (England) and finally Mount Snowdon (Wales). The aim is to do this in 24 hours, we did it in 21 hours being the 3rd team home. 

The reason for mentioning this is because I love the idea of climbing one of the Worlds biggest peaks. Aconcagua in Argentina is the largest peak outside of Asia, measuring nearly 7,000 metres.  When I was in the UK I watched a documentary called 'Cycling the Americas'. And this is the epic journey I am referring to - Mark Beaumont from Scotland, cycled the whole length of North and South America, in addition to this he climbed the two highest peaks Mount McKinley and Aconcagua - basically without any rest!  Its an amazing documentary, and I am watching like a hawk for it to come to Canada so I can indulge myself again.

(image from

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