Starting Out: Jogging

So you’ve decided to start jogging for the first time – congratulations! Jogging is an excellent way of boosting your mood, increasing your movement and keeping your weight under control.

But before you load up a running playlist on your phone and bolt out the door, first take some advice gleaned from jogging experts that may help you start on the right foot.

Here’s how to avoid the common rookie mistakes people make when picking up jogging for the first time.

Let out the doubt
“New joggers usually worry about how they compare to other people, and how they might look and be perceived,” says Heather Gardner, founder of Toronto’s Tribe Fitness. She advises to come to the experience of jogging “from a place that is personal versus worrying about others and what others think.”

Remember, feeling self-conscious is normal when starting a new activity, but it shouldn’t hold you back from becoming the best person you can be.

“Once upon a time, if someone would have said: ‘Luis you will be a runner in the future’, I would have literally laughed in their face.  I never pictured myself to be a runner,” says Luis Cabrera, a runner of 10 years, who is now a Nike Ambassador. “I always had this idea in my head that runners were these fit people that had been running all their life. I was wrong! Runners come in all shapes and sizes.  I’ve seen older people come out for the first time and seeing that motivates me.”

Don’t over-do it
New joggers tend to go all out, too soon. But pushing past the point of exhaustion and racking up too many kilometres can lead to injury and setbacks.

“By jumping into it without stretching and warming up properly, joggers risk injury or they can be very sore afterwards and so they won’t be able to run again for that week,” says Colin Matchim, head coach of Ajax Boxing Club, which will hinder their progress. Adopting a pre-workout warmup and stretch, followed by a post-workout stretch, is a good way to combat injuries from occurring.

Fuel your body
Also dangerous to a new jogger? Not eating or drinking enough. “A lot of people don’t realize the importance of proper nourishment and hydration before the start of run and quickly find out why it’s a bad idea not to be prepared,” says Matchim. “Stay hydrated throughout the day before you run and make sure you eat properly — but not within 45 minutes of your jog.”

Use the right shoes
New joggers can also suffer from repeat use injury, like shin splints, if they are not wearing the appropriate gear. “Many people are worried about sore knees and hips when jogging,” says Garner. “But with the proper program and attire, like running shoes, those injuries don’t generally happen.” So, go ahead and splurge on those new sneakers – it will be well worth it!

Have a plan and stick to it
Without a plan in place, many new joggers might begin to feel overwhelmed. Whether you are starting on a treadmill, a trail, or on the road, it’s important to find a route that feels comfortable for you, and to stick with it.

Gardner recommends finding a plan online from a reliable resource, or joining a class like the Learn to Run program at Tribe Fitness, a run/walk progression that requires no past running experience. “It is all about breaking it down into small accessible pieces,” she says. “So the program is broken down into small jog and walk chunks. You jog for one minute and walk for two minutes. The time slowly changes and the increments slowly morph throughout the program between jogging and walking. It is finding a program for the beginner jogger and giving them something that they can follow along.”

For those who are going it alone, Matchim suggests picking a route and timing yourself. “Setting goals within the route is always a good idea,” he says. “Jog to a pre-set landmark before you stop, and then on the day, you jog to another landmark.  Improving your time is another measurable method of tracking your improvement.” For example, see how it long it takes you to jog around the block one week, and compare it to your time for the next week.

Don’t go it alone
A great way to keep motivated with your new routine is finding a jogging buddy.

“When you know your friend is waiting for you in the park or on the corner, you won’t stand them up. You are going to go,” says Gardner, who recommends finding friends who have similar fitness goals. “The people who you are surrounded with impact what you do, including fitness and hobbies. I think finding like-minded people in your community who want to do what you want to do is key.” She suggests beginner joggers connect with others by joining a running program or finding a coach. Gardner also says that posting your fitness goals on social media, like Facebook or Connect is another way to stay accountable. “Post something like, ‘Hey, I just started this new jogging program. Ask me how it is going!’ Because people will ask you how it is going. Enrolling people will keep you accountable to your goals.”

Jogging can be a great addition to your fitness routine, or a terrific start of your new healthier you. Like everything else in life, you need to commit to it in order to be successful,” says Cabrera. “Jogging is one of those things that takes work and dedication.”

Read the original article on the Weight Watchers Canada website.

Getting Comfortable With Your Body

Many of us perceive our bodies as the enemy. The one thing that prevents us from looking and feeling the way we want to: confident, comfortable and beautiful. But let’s be honest: Loving every single part of your body is pretty tough, especially with Photoshopped media images of so-called “perfect” bodies constantly barraging us on a daily basis.

Not to mention we have to deal with the nail-biting swimsuit season that’s just around the corner.

However, viewing your body as an adversary isn’t the answer. In fact, befriending your body, and celebrating it, is essential for your self-care and self-worth. Follow the tips below to finally befriend and love your body, and find the confidence to wear that swimsuit you’ve been eyeing.

Acknowledge that your body is a part of you
We know that we have a body, but when we have a habit of viewing our bodies as a foreign entity – something separate from ourselves – we disconnect from a vital aspect of who we are.

“When we ignore the fact that our bodies are not an important part of who we are, that becomes a problem,” says Toronto-based image consultant, Cherene Francis, of “Especially as women, from adolescence to motherhood to menopause, our bodies are very much a part of our identity. I think the first step to loving and celebrating your body is accepting that, yes, our bodies and our body image is an important part of who we are.”

Stop comparing
Comparing yourself to someone else’s body – especially to the one on a fashion magazine cover — is always a losing game: you seldom feel good about yourself, and you will only end up creating more distance between you and your body.

“Once we start comparing, we limit healthy perspectives of ourselves, and that’s when we create unrealistic expectations for ourselves,” says Francis. “We really put ourselves in a box by saying things like, ‘I should look this way,’ etc.”

What makes your body uniquely beautiful is, well, you. The truth is, the world would be pretty bland if we all looked the same.

Francis adds, “It all comes down to perspective. We need to step back and see that our preferred body shape is often determined by our culture. You need to step back and assess whether you are limiting your idea of your body based on cultural ideals. When we change our perception, we will change the idea of our bodies.”

Embrace the good and ‘the bad’
When you make a new friend, you relish in their positive qualities, and you accept – and embrace – their flaws. The same can be said about befriending your body.

“Really start to embrace yourself, the parts that you like and the parts that you don’t like,” says Francis. “It could be that you love the curve of your hips, or your lips. So play it up more, accentuate it. Wear a dress or put on a new lip gloss that enhances and embraces that.”

She adds, “Also embrace the parts that you don’t necessarily like about yourself. Ignoring those parts is not going to improve them. That’s because what is happening on a deeper level is, you still have negative energy there, so you’re still going to focus on it more even when you don’t want to. When we work with a forgiving attitude, over time, you embrace [your flaws] more and it doesn’t end up being a problem for you.”

Pamper yourself
Treating your body as a special commodity that deserves to be spoiled, rather than something strictly functional, will help you to celebrate how amazing it really is.

“Doing things for yourself will make you feel better. There’s not a lot of opportunities for people to pamper themselves,” says Red Herring of the Toronto School of Burlesque. “Burlesque is all about the ideal of femininity. So when we do things, we are exaggerating our hair, our makeup, everything. People in their everyday life don’t really do that. When you’re working everyday in an office it’s hard to see yourself as the beautiful goddess that you are.”

Herring suggests taking the time to think about something special that you want. “I want this gorgeous lipstick or outfit that I might not wear anywhere, but I want it for myself.”

The more you treat your body as something to cherish, the more you will believe it.

Give yourself a show
Standing in front of a mirror in the buff can cause major anxiety for some of us, so Herring recommends doing a strip tease – even if it’s just for yourself. While this might seem uncomfortable at first, it can be a way for you to learn how to appreciate every part of your body.

“I tell all my students to practice taking off every piece of clothing and taking off each piece slowly. One minute per piece of clothing.,” she says. “A lot of what I teach in burlesque is attributing importance to each part of the body. Taking a minute to take off a single glove is telling people that the glove is very important. And that means what’s underneath the glove is ten times more important than the glove itself. So by assigning importance to every piece of clothing, they’re making everything underneath – their skin, their body – incredibly important.”

When you begin to value your body, your confidence instantly increases. You’ll love being in your own skin, and that self-assurance will radiate from the inside, out.

Choose comfort over style
You’ve finally worked up the courage to go bathing suit shopping. Now what?

First, “Be real with yourself in terms of your comfort zone when it comes to exposing your body,” says Francis. “Follow that inner radar on what’s your comfort level. I don’t think anyone should ever feel they need to adopt a certain trend during bathing suit season. The first thing people are going to read is just how comfortable or uncomfortable you are at the beach or the pool. The whole point of relaxing and going on vacation is enjoying yourself and loving yourself, and you want to do that in a comfortable way.”

Herring agrees. “It doesn’t matter what size it is, as long as it fits you,” she says. “A lot of people get wrapped up in what size they are. You should only be concerned with the fit and how amazing you feel.  So I encourage people to look at clothes at how they fit and not at the tags.”

Read the original article I wrote here at Weight Watchers Canada.

Starting Out: Swimming

Swimming is an excellent form of exercise, especially in the summertime. It’s one of those sneaky fitness regimes that burn just as many calories as it provides many hours of enjoyment.

“Swimming isn’t just great for weight loss, but it’s also great for the mind and spirit, too,” says Mindy Barfield, the office manager of AquaMobile Swim School, which offers private swimming lessons across Canada and the U.S.

But if you’ve never swam before, or are re-entering the water after a long absence, swimming can seem daunting, particularly for adults.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind before starting your swimming program.

You’re never too old to learn
Generally, when we think of swimming lessons, we tend to think of them as something that only children do. We often assume – wrongly – that swimming is a skill that every adult already possesses, or, at least, should know. It’s usually this negative thought pattern that will deter adults from learning how to swim in the first place.

“When I talk to fearful swimmers who are adults, a lot of that fear comes from a childhood event,” says Barfield. “The lack of learning as a child makes them embarrassed. They think they shouldn’t talk about it because they believe they should have learned it when they were young, but that’s not the case.”

As Barfield succinctly points out, “You’re never too old to learn anything, ever.”

Wear the right gear
With any sport, it’s important to ensure that you’re wearing the right gear in order to get the most out of your time and body.

“You don’t want what you wear to impact you negatively,” says Shelley Dalke, Director of the Swimming and Water Safety Program for the Canadian Red Cross. “For example: men wearing big, baggy shorts or women who are wearing bathing suits with excessive material that floats up. You want to wear something that you’re comfortable in, and that you’re not adjusting all the time.”

Finding the right goggles is also crucial. “I recommend investing in a good quality pair of goggles,” says Barfield. “Then that is one last thing that adult swimmers don’t need to worry about and then they can open up their eyes comfortably in the water. [Opening eyes underwater] tends to be a large concern for adults, especially those who wear contact lenses.” Barfield recommends consulting with your instructor on what type of goggles you should invest in, and ensuring they are fitted correctly.

Fuel your body
Even though we’ve all heard the “wait an hour after eating before swimming” idiom, both Barfield and Dalke suggest that fueling your body before swimming is a good idea.

“You have to ensure that your stomach isn’t working on digesting a heavy meal,” says Dalke, which probably explains the intention behind the common phrase. “But you want to ensure that you’ve eaten sufficiently to keep up your energy.”

Barfield recommends eating a high protein snack, as well as listening to your body. “If you’re the type who needs to eat before your workout, then do so. If not, don’t worry about it,” she says. “Just like any activity, you need to have endurance and you don’t want to lose your lunch, so to speak.”


Read the original article that I wrote for Weight Watchers Canada, here.