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 AuraImageConsulting.com. “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.

Boxing classes taught me so much more than a right jab

Last January, I became one of those people — one of the many people who join a gym as soon as the remnants of the holidays have been devoured and digested, and almost instantly regretted. Because I work from home and despise the winter, I decided I needed to leave the house. And because I had indulged in a number of regretted but enjoyed proseccos and tiny quiches basically every day for a month, I decided I also wanted Gigi Hadid’s abs.

Boxing was something that had interested me on and off throughout the years because I knew it would be unlike any of my Tracy Anderson or Ballet Beautiful DVDs. It would be demanding and essentially kick my derriere — something I knew I needed on both a fitness and a personal level. So I decided to join a boxing gym.

A year later, and I’m still working out at the same boxing gym. Not only did I stick with my New Year’s fitness intentions (I’m all about setting intentions rather than making resolutions), but I also learned a lot about myself throughout the process.

If you’re considering taking on a new activity or sport in 2017 as part of your New Year’s fitness intentions, here are some words of wisdom I can pass on that I learned from my year of taking boxing classes.

You are stronger (physically, mentally, emotionally) than you think

I’m gonna be real: Boxing is hard work. Learning combinations and throwing punches is challenging — especially when you have as little upper-body strength as I do. I mean, prior to boxing, I found opening a jar of pickles sweat-inducing.

Suffice it to say it didn’t come easily to me, and I hated that. I like things that come easily because I also hate doing things “wrong.” There were so many times when my inner perfectionist wanted to quit, but I knew on a very visceral, life-changing level that I couldn’t bob and weave myself out of this test. I would have to, literally, muscle through it.

More: Women’s fitness: Get lean, mean results with boxing

That’s not to say I loved every minute of boxing. I most definitely didn’t. But I soon learned to love the challenge of it, and soon I was finding success in the smallest of victories, whether it was successfully memorizing a combo or doing 15 push-ups without stopping. I discovered that I was a lot stronger — physically, mentally and emotionally — than I had given myself credit for.

Lesson learned: Keep pushing through because the reward of conquering old fears, thinking and patterns is priceless.

You are more than an outdated label for yourself

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t identify myself as an artist. In high school, I lived in my bedroom, writing stories. Throughout my 20s, I was a struggling actor, putting on plays in black box theatres (read: fancy basements). Now, I make my living from freelance writing, while I dabble in screenwriting on the side.

Despite being an avid exerciser for most of my life, I never thought of myself as a “jock.” To me, jocks were greased-up bodybuilders or those show-offs who always placed first at high school track and field while I was rewarded with a participation ribbon. Even bendy yogis who thrived on green juice and macrobiotic diets were more athletic than little ol’ me.

But by pushing and persevering through boxing class — by being able to both keep up and compete with some of the top athletes in class — I realized that I was actually athletic.

Boxing forced me to admit — to give — to myself this vital side of me that I had denied and suppressed due to an old (and, let’s be honest, probably toxic) belief that I was only “artsy” and not ever a “jock.” Embracing this new me has pushed me to finishing my first-ever 10K race, as well as pursuing an entirely different career path as a personal trainer.

Lesson learned: Don’t restrict yourself from evolving and growing into your true potential based on who you thought you were or what you believed about yourself so many years ago. Believe that you can be this and that and so much more — and you will be!

You are a kickass woman, inside and out

Like many women, I have struggled with my fair share of self-esteem issues. Boxing forced me out of my physical comfort zone, which in turn, helped me to love and appreciate my body more. Now I see my thighs and butt as something awesome because of their powerful abilities rather than something to be so critical and judgmental of whilst in a poorly lit changing room.

Lesson learned: Be a body-appreciative person rather than a body-cognizant person, and remember you are not alone in your journey.

Oh, and one more thing: I did end up getting those Gigi abs, after all.

 

To read the entire article, go to SheKnows.com where it was originally published.

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.

Outdoor Workouts You Need to Do This Summer

 

With the super nice weather outside, it’s perfectly normal to feel uninspired about hitting the gym. So step off the boring treadmill, and take your workout outdoors!

Below are some awesome outdoor fitness ideas that are sure-fire ways to torch calories and have fun!

1. Head to the Park

Your closest public park can be the next best thing to a gym. Take a friend for an easy jog around the park. Use the park benches for step-ups or standing push-ups and tricep dips, while the various ladders are great for legs. And don’t forget the monkey bars for a serious arm workout!

2. Jump on Your Bike

Cycling is not only an amazing way to burn calories, but it’s also a really fun workout to do with a group of friends. Zip around the neighborhood, or head to a nearby biking trail for challenging terrain and a change of scenery. Your newly toned butt and legs will thank you!

3. Try Inline Skating

This is the best workout for you adrenaline junkies, or for the adventurous types who are looking for a new cardio challenge. Skating sculpts your butt and thighs, and also provides an awesome release from mental baggage, like dudes and school, since it demands total concentration. The best thing? You can skate just about anywhere.

4. Get Hiking

Going for a hike not only gets you in touch with nature, but it’s also one heck of a sweat session. It keeps your cardiovascular system in fighting shape, while giving the you stronger, leaner thighs and firm butt that you crave. Plus, it’s super meditative.

5. Hit the Water

Kayaking, or canoeing, is an excellent way of making the most of your summer, while getting your fitness on. Pulling the paddle against the water is great resistance, which is an intense workout for your shoulders, biceps, triceps and core. Bonus? Being on the water is sooooo peaceful.

Read the entire article over at Awesomeness TV!

Why I Threw Away My Scale

From my August 2015 article at She Does The City:

I threw out my scale last week. I’ve had it in my bathroom since I was a kid. I don’t really know why. It was one of those things that everyone had in their bathroom in the 80s, like Jacuzzi tubs and tiny heart-shaped hand soaps.

I decided to throw the damn thing out because, you might say, it was weighing me down. One day, as I was probably peeing, I looked at it and saw what it represented to me over the years – despair, depression, elation – and then I immediately hated it. So I promptly put it out with the trash, and I’ve never felt better about my relationship with my body and all of our past and present poundage.

I was 14 when I started giving a shit about how much I weighed. This is the age in which my hips spread and my years of eating McDonald’s caught up to my thighs. Stretch marks appeared around what was now my dimpled bottom, and cellulite quickly became the bane of my existence. Unsurprisingly, this was also the year I became obsessed with weighing myself on my bathroom scale.

At the time, my friends were all Twiggy-like with those annoyingly lucky eat-whatever-they-want metabolisms. Their stick legs and tiny tushes were hugely irritating/harmful to my self-esteem. I wanted desperately to look like them and all of the “heroin chic” models and actresses that graced my favourite entertainment magazines. When a friend of mine remarked that I was “curvy,” I nearly had a heart attack.

So I worked out. A lot. I took kickboxing classes and ran on my mom’s treadmill religiously after school. I didn’t like to discuss my workout schedule with my friends because I was embarrassed. Teens didn’t really exercise in the 90s unless they were jocks. My body made me feel “less than” and unattractive. I was ashamed that I had to work at my body. I couldn’t see the positives of my strong thighs or bodacious behind (God, how I would have looooved to have Beyoncé around in my day) – I only saw that my thighs stuck out from my Le Château dress while dresses always hung nice and neatly straight on my friends.

Throughout my high school years I’d weigh myself almost daily. At one point in grade 10, when my weight was at its heaviest, my mom told me, “Muscle weighs more than fat.” I immediately stopped my daily runs and weight lifting. I didn’t care whether what my mom said was true or not – the scale’s opinion of myself mattered more.

To read the rest, click on over to She Does The City where it was first published. 

What Every Gym Newbie Should Know

Here’s a post that I wrote for Awesomeness TV about a verrrrry popular topic.

Gyms can be super intimidating, especially for those who have never set foot inside one before. Not only are the machines — and, LBH, smells —  unfamiliar, but there are a few unspoken rules that no one ever really teaches you. That is, until now.

So whether you’re hitting the treadmill for the first time in a while, or hitting the gym for the first time everrrr, here’s what every gym newbie should know.

Use the Locker Room

Gyms usually don’t care for a ton of gym bags strewn in front and around equipment. It’s a safety hazard and isn’t really polite for the other members who are trying to use the machines, too. Most gyms have locker rooms, so it’s a good idea to bring a lock with you and stash and secure your personal items in there. If not, bring only your essentials — water bottle, wallet and phone — with you.

Stay off Your Smart Phone

You’re there to sweat — not Snap! We know that it’s super tempting to text your bestie or scroll through Instagram while on the Stairmaster, but if you have the energy to do that, then you’re obviously not putting enough energy into your workout. Also, if you happen to get a call from Mom, your chatting might annoy other members. Instead, think of your exercise session as a time to disconnect from the outside world and connect with your body. Need to zone out to your iTunes workout playlist? Simply switch your phone to Airplane mode.

Wipe Your Equipment Down

Yes, gyms are germy, and other people’s sweat is not cool. That’s why most gyms provide either towels or a sanitary station, or both, to keep the equipment clean and as germ-free as possible. Some equipment, like free weights, don’t need to be wiped down each time, but machines, like the treadmill or the leg press, do. Tip? Wipe both before and after you use them. And remember to always wash your hands post-workout.

For more tips, click on over to the original post!