Brendan Brazier

A Few of My Favourite Things: Workout DVDs, Sport Supplements, and Cold Weather Workout Wear

Workout DVDs

Things have been a bit busy lately and sometimes any barriers to exercise make it seem a little overwhelming. I purchased a gym membership at the gorgeous Steve Nash Sports Club in downtown Vancouver but sometimes, with deadlines looming, it seems like too big an ordeal to get myself there for a workout – and that’s when I turn to my collection of workout DVDs.

There is no excuse not to spend 30 minutes or less in my living room, working up a sweat and preparing my mind for a creative and productive work day.

One of my former employers, Dr Stacy Irvine who owns the gorgeous fitness club and sports medicine clinic Totum Life Science with her husband Tim, wrote an article for the Huffington Post about exercise’s effects on the brain and cited one of my favourite books, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J Ratey (which I mentioned in a previous post). The article and book are a must-read for anyone who uses their brain.

Core Conversion DVD

One of my best friends, Zenia Martynkiw, is a phenomenal physiotherapist and she gave me this DVD as a gift. I love it, it’s my current go-to workout. Core Conversion is a workout developed by the Gray Institute  that trains the body in all three planes of motion using different variations of shoulder raises, lunges, squats and push-ups. It’s like nothing you’ve ever done and it’s awesome.

Power Yoga with Rodney Yee DVD

Yoga is a great way to prepare you mind and body for the day, and following a yoga DVD is a great way to get it done without leaving home and dealing with how disheveled you look. Rodney Yee is one of my favourite yogis and Power Yoga for Strength and Flexibility with Rodney Yee is a great DVD with two different workouts: power yoga for strength and power yoga for flexibility.

Vega Sport Pre-Workout Optimizer

The problem with many supplements is that they pretend to be health-boosting formulas but when you take a close look at the label they’re full of weird chemicals and unhealthy preservatives.

As a personal trainer and fitness enthusiast, I spent a lot of time searching for supplements that would boost my performance and supply my body with quality ingredients. I was never satisfied…until I found Vega.

Developed by Brendan Brazier, a vegan, former professional Ironman triathlete and author, Vega is 100 percent plant-based and has a range of products from meal replacement shakes to energy bars to the new sport performance system that includes my favourite, the Pre-Workout Optimizer (formerly Performance Optimizer) in lemon lime, endurance gel, electrolyte hydrator, recovery accelerator and more.

Under Armour ColdGear Tights

One of the keys to sticking with your workout routine is to be prepared, and having suitable gear – especially for inclement weather – is a must. It’s that time of year again when a chilly morning can leave me feeling iffy about my planned run.

Under Armour ColdGear Tights to the rescue! They’re cozy and warm, nice and long so that there’s no skin peeking out at my ankles, and the waist is high and snug so that my pants don’t migrate south when I'm pounding the pavement.

Eagerly Awaited Books

Tina Fey talks to Google's Eric Schmidt about her new book, Bossypants.

I generally never buy a book without first test driving it through the public library. I adore the library so much, I want to write it a love song. Can you believe that you can read nearly any book for free? I’m not sure if I’ll ever get over that exciting fact, or the fact that with a little, or sometimes a lot, of patience you can get your hands on nearly any new book, and it arrives for pick-up on a special shelf and has your name on it. It gives me warm fuzzies just thinking about it. Following are a few books that I have on hold and am eagerly waiting to read.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

The cover alone is enough to make me want to read this book. Currently at position 163 in the Vancouver Public Library hold queue, I’m not alone in wanting to read Tina Fey’s allegedly hilarious new memoir. Click here to read an interview with Tina Fey that appeared in the Vancouver Sun and includes a clip from her appearance on Oprah promoting the book.

My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family and Togetherness by Gwyneth Paltrow

This quote from a Vancouver Sun article by Randy Shore nicely sums up how I initially felt about Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook: “I was fully prepared to hate Gwyneth Paltrow's cook book, My Father's Daughter. But I can't. It's really quite good.” I’ve only flipped through it at the bookstore and heard reviews from friends but it looks beautiful and sounds good so I’m really looking forward to reading it and trying out some of her recipes. See below for a funny video of Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld talking to Paltrow about the book for Jessica’s website, Do It Delicious.

From This Moment On by Shania Twain

How do you get through finding out that your best friend and husband are having an affair? I have no idea, but Shania Twain shares her experience with such a scenario in her new memoir – which I know ends with marrying her best friend’s hunky husband, having her own TV show, and coming out with her first new song since releasing her 2002 album Up. See the video for Today Is Your Day below. I love this song. Go Shania!

Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi, by Yotam Ottolenghi

Vegetarianism has been on my radar a lot lately. From my brother’s new adventures in veganism to my interview with vegan athlete and author Brendan Brazier, and the amount of information I’m learning about the environmental impact of animal-based food production, I am trying to make small changes towards a more plant-based diet. After reading a Globe and Mail article about this new cookbook, which calls it “one of the greatest vegetarian cookbooks of all time”, I am keen to read it and try out some of the recipes for the food blog that I contribute to at See below for a video of the author making the recipe that appears on the cover, Aubergine with Buttermilk Sauce. Yum.

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

When you hear about someone twice in one day from different sources it’s enough to pique your interest. So when my husband sent me an article called Developing Your Creative Practice that mentions Lehrer, and a newsletter from Publication Coach Daphne Gray-Grant called Putting a Dollar Figure to Stories, which also mentions Lehrer, appeared in my inbox I was curious to learn more about this young neuroscientist and his new book which, according to the publisher, seeks "to answer two questions that are of interest to just about anyone, from CEOs to firefighters: How does the human mind make decisions? And how can we make those decisions better?" See below for a CBS interview with Lehrer about this book.

Fabulous Fitness Books

I’ve just been rooting around on my bookshelf for some fitness inspiration and look at all of the fabulous fitness books I have! These are all fantastic reads and full of great advice.

The Mars and Venus Diet & Exercise Solution by John Gray

Filled with insight on how diet and exercise affect men and women differently, this book delights with classic John Gray humour and charm. I had the privilege of hearing him speak as the keynote at a fitness conference in Toronto when this book first came out and I remember laughing so hysterically that my dear friend Aida and I practically had to hold each other up. After his talk, I rushed to the booth where he was selling and signing books and I was right behind the person who purchased the last book. I did, however, get to shake his hand, and it’s a moment I’ll never forget!

Fit for the Love of It by Uche and Kary Odiatu

I first became aware of this dynamic duo at the same fitness conference in Toronto where I met John Gray, Can Fit Pro, but the previous year. Kary is a former Ms Fitness Universe and Uche is a dentist, and together they are internationally known speakers, authors and fitness experts. They are one of my hero couples – an inspiring and vibrant team – and my husband and I have adopted their yearly practice of writing down goals (dreams with deadlines) at the start of each year. This is an inspiring book that I read again and again – and they’ve just published another fabulous book called The Miracle of Health.

Thrive Fitness by Brendan Brazier

OK, I know I can stop mentioning Brendan Brazier (as evidenced here, here, here, here and here) but this guy is good! This is a great book with great content (including a 6-week workout plan) from the vegan and former professional Ironman triathlete.

5-Factor Fitness by Harley Pasternak

I’ve also mentioned this fellow Canadian and trainer-to-the-stars a couple of times recently (here and here) but he is also very good. The 5-week plan from this book photocopies perfectly onto a double sided piece of letter-size paper and has been a frequent companion on my visits to the gym – it’s a great workout.

Your Best Body Now by Tosca Reno

If you haven’t heard of Tosca Reno, her story is truly inspiring. As a 40-something single mother she was overweight, out of shape, and sick and tired of being sick and tired. Then she found fitness and became a model (gracing the likes of Oxygen, one of my favourite fitness magazines), best-selling author (check out her Eat-Clean series), motivational speaker and wellness consultant.

Tracy Anderson’s 30-Day Method by Tracy Anderson

I’ve been adding the exercises from Tracy Anderson’s 30-Day Method to my workout routine (which she wouldn’t approve of because she implores her students to follow only her program, but I currently feel like doing a whole whack of things) and think her “Method” is pretty darn cool (and have recently mentioned it here, here and here). If it’s good enough for Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s good enough for me!

Body-for-Life for Women by Dr. Pamela Peeke

I loved Body-for-Life and Eating for Life by Bill Phillips so I was excited when Body-for-Life for Women came out, and it didn’t disappoint. Pamela Peeke is a great coach and addresses issues unique to women, especially as we age. Cindy Crawford is a fan and even wrote the forward for this lovely book.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J Ratey

This is such a great book, and has inspired me to get moving many a time when the urge just wasn’t there. John J Ratey takes a fascinating look at exercise and the brain and gives lots of scientific backing to his discussion of the effects of physical activity on learning, stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, hormones, and aging. He includes this quote from Plato that I think nicely sums it up:

“In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.”

Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier

An absolute must for anyone interested in human anatomy, especially as it pertains to strength training. This is a detailed and thorough look at the muscles involved in a great selection of resistance exercises.

How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy by Paul Chek

I’ve been to a number of sessions with Paul Check at Can Fit Pro conferences over the years and he is one holistic health guru not to be reckoned with. He’s a very intense and slightly intimidating chap (I quietly and discreetly cower in the back of his sessions) but his “personalized 4-step guide to looking and feeling great from the inside out” is a very insightful, impactful and holistic approach to fitness – just take a look at this super-fit and feisty fellow in the video below and you’ll see what I mean! This book even has a section on bowel movements, complete with cartoons of "bowel bandits" and the great advice I like to share with clients (partly to see them squirm): "the sign of a healthy digestive system is excreting at least 12 inches of poop each day." Do you poop 12 inches a day?

From Circadian Larks to Sleepyheads, Everyone Needs a Good Night's Sleep

Charlie the Labradoodle is ready for bed.

Sleep, or a lack of it, has been on my radar lately. And when something is at the forefront of your consciousness, your reticular activating system serves to make you aware of information relating to that something. For me, the information has come in the form of some Globe and Mail articles, a vegan cookbook, and a TED talk. It’s so interesting when different angles on the same subject come together.

Brendan Brazier on Nutrition’s Influence on Sleep

I recently interviewed Brendan Brazier for, and have been fascinated by what he has to say about sleep in his new book, Whole Foods to Thrive – part vegan cookbook, part healthy living guide, and part environmental action plan.

Brazier mentions how numerous studies emphasize how much sleep we need, but he argues that the quality of sleep is what we should be most concerned about, and that quality of sleep is directly related to our diet. One major source of stress is nutritional stress – up to 40% of overall stress, says Brazier – brought on by a diet that includes empty calories, processed foods, and other nasties.

High stress levels result in high cortisol levels, a hormone with many effects, including disrupting our delta-phase sleep – “the phase in which growth hormone is released, naturally triggering cellular repair and regeneration.” So one major way to improve sleep is to improve diet. Read more about Brazier's take diet and nutritional stress here.

Arianna Huffington Encourages Women to Sleep Their Way to the Top

Below is a great TED talk on sleep with Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington. My favourite quote from the video:

“The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep. And we women are going to lead the way in this new revolution, this new feminist issue – we are literally going to sleep our way to the top. Literally.”

Sleep Deprivation is a National Epidemic. And It’s Killing Us, Says The Globe and Mail

“Because sleep is when the body and especially the brain regenerate and repair themselves, sleeplessness has been identified as a factor in an endless list of afflictions, including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, memory loss, bipolar disorder, reduced immunity, mood swings, impaired carbohydrate metabolism and increased heart-rate variability. Not to mention depression and substance abuse and the impairment of memory, self-expression and the ability to read emotions in others. Oh, and a hundred thousand motor-vehicle accidents a year” Read the whole Globe and Mail article here.

Another Globe and Mail article, by Toronto-based dietitian Leslie Beck, offers “Eight ways to get a better sleep.”

Sleep Well, Fellow Insomniacs

If you, like me, struggle with getting enough sleep, I hope you’ll find this information helpful. I’ve never been a good sleeper but there are a few rules I follow that usually have me counting more, and better quality, sheep.

Number one is not eating less than three hours before I got to bed. Sleeping is for repair and regeneration, not digestion, so it’s important that processing the food in your gut is not on your body’s night time to-do list.

Number two is reducing external stimulation as it gets closer to bed time. Bright lights, lively music, TV screens and computer monitors are things that should be avoided in at least the hour before hitting the sack.

And lastly, I like to do some easy reading once I’m all tucked in. By easy reading, I mean nothing too heavy or disturbing, and without any calls to action (I’ve restricted self-help books from my night time repertoire as they’re likely to have me itching to get out of bed and put their advice into action).


Not Your Average Treadmill Workout Followed By a Tasty Vegan Recovery Snack

Image: Flickr / sashawolff It’s impossible to work in the fitness industry without some knowledge of or interest in nutrition. Not a day goes by without someone asking about what they should eat. What to eat for breakfast? What to eat for snack? What to eat before a workout? What to eat after a workout?

Shortly before or after a workout it’s best to eat something that’s easily assimilated – before a workout so you have energy to exert but your blood isn’t diverted to your stomach for digestion, and after a workout so your body can quickly regain energy and nutrients.

I recently had a fabulously intense workout on the treadmill and finished it off by trying a post-workout snack recipe from Brendan Brazier’s book, Thrive: A Guide to Optimal Health and Performance Through Plant-based Whole Foods.

The Workout: 30 Minutes of Cardio, 15 Minutes of Abs and Stretching

I like to shake things up so this workout was a thrilling collage of different things. Warming up is hugely important so I take at least 5 minutes to do so. I started by walking at 3.3km/hr and increased my speed by 0.2km/hr every minute until the 5 minute mark. Then I sped up to a slow jog at 4.5km/hr for 3 minutes and then alternated 30 seconds of side shuffling on the right, 30 seconds of side shuffling on the left, and 30 seconds of jogging, which I repeated four times. That got me to the 14 minute mark.

I got the idea of side shuffling a few years ago after seeing a video of Tracy Anderson doing it. I couldn’t find the same video but here’s a video of Tracy and Molly Sims doing a whole workout routine on the treadmill. Looks fun. I’m definitely going to add some skipping to my workout next time! See the side shuffles at 2:18 on the video. Be careful and hold on if you try them!

At the 14 minute mark I sped up to 5.5km/hr and then the fun began. If you’ve seen me, you know I’m built for speed, and my generous glutes and quads make sprinting fun. I like to alternate a minute of jogging at 5.5km/hr with a minute of something faster that increases in speed each time around, so it looked like this:

  • Minute 14: 5.5km/hr
  • Minute 15: 6.5km/hr
  • Minute 16: 5.5km/hr
  • Minute 17: 7.5km/hr
  • Minute 18: 5.5km/hr
  • Minute 19: 8.5km/hr
  • Minute 20: 5.5km/hr
  • Minute 21: 9.5km/hr
  • Minute 22: 5.5km/hr

I kept jogging at 5.5km/hr until minute 27 and then walked at 3.5km/hr until minute 30, and then I was done!

I always bring my own yoga mat to the gym because a) I like it better than the puffy gym mats, b) the puffy gym mats are most likely crawling with germs, and c) I like to take my shoes off and do some yoga stretches.

What you feel needs stretching is a very personal thing but since I spend a lot of time sitting at a computer, I mostly focus on stretching the muscles that take the biggest beating: hip flexors, core and chest.

Before stretching, I did some core work, 2 sets of 20 reps. I'll show you how to do them in great detail in an upcoming video, but for now I'll just tell you what I did:

  • Crunch with leg tuck and extend – this is a really challenging crunch from Tracy Anderson's 30- Day Method book. As you crunch up, bring your knees towards your chest and as you lower your torso, extend your legs out straight. I extend mine out at about a 45 degree angle because it's currently too much of a challenge for my lower back to extend my legs any lower. Repeat 20 times and then move straight on to the next exercise.
  • Medicine ball twists – sit so that your torso and bent legs form a V, and slightly lean back with abs fully engaged (the further you lean back the more difficult it is). With a medicine ball or weight in your hands, slowly twist from side to side, tapping the ball or weight to the floor behind and beside your hip. Repeat 20 times on each side and then move straight on to the next exercise.
  • Back extensions – lie face down on the mat (see, aren't you glad you brought your own mat?!) with legs straight and arms bent, like the floor is telling you to "stick 'em up". Focusing on using the lower back muscles to power the lift, slowly lift your legs and torso off the floor, pausing at the top, and slowly lowering back to the floor. Repeat 20 times and then rest for 30 to 60 seconds before repeating the cycle.

The Recipe: Chocolate Recovery Pudding

I’m trying to incorporate more plant-based proteins into my diet so I decided to make this recipe from Brendan Brazier because it contains tofu as the protein source. I didn’t have all the ingredients so I had to improvise a little. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out but it was actually quite delicious and I’m excited to have a quick and easy post-workout snack that is vegan and healthy (especially once I buy some organic cocoa powder instead of using hot chocolate powder mix).


  • ¼ pound medium-firm tofu
  • 1 banana
  • ½ pear (I didn’t add this)
  • ½ tbsp hemp oil (I used flax oil instead)
  • ½ tbsp cocoa powder (I didn’t have any so I used hot chocolate powder mix, better than nothing!)
  • Sprinkle sea salt (I didn’t add this)


Blend all ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.