An important part of The Life Delicious curriculum is movement in community, so of course I was thrilled to write about some awesome group workouts happening in Vancouver for Montecristo magazine!
An important part of The Life Delicious curriculum is movement in community, so of course I was thrilled to write about some awesome group workouts happening in Vancouver for Montecristo magazine!
Click on individual images for class information.
Part of The Life Delicious holistic wellness curriculum focuses on trying a wide variety of different physical activities that challenge your body in numerous ways. The more challenges you throw at your body the better prepared it will be to rise to the different physical occasions that life throws at it.
Plus, you’ll be way less likely to get bored when you’re trying a ton of exciting new things!
I’ve never been a one-gym woman, I’m more of a dabbler, so you can imagine how excited I was when I heard about ClassPass!
It was like something I’d dreamed: a pass that gives you access to dozens of different fitness studios from barre to bootcamp to boxing to CrossFit to dance to salsa to spin to yoga to Zumba!
I liked it so much I became an affiliate. Interested in signing up? Use my link and save $30 off your 1st month! >>> http://class.ps/d43vU
Before you dive in, here are a few things to know.
There are more than 100 participating Metro Vancouver fitness studios that you can access with your ClassPass, so check out the map (scroll down) to see what’s in your ‘hood – and plan adventures to places across the city that you’re curious to try. Click the little bullet icon to see the full alphabetical list.
It’s important to work a balanced blend of cardio, strength and flexibility into your fitness schedule. Once you’re signed up, your ClassPass member page can organize available classes by type, date or location. Try to pick at least one day per week each for strength (like bootcamp), cardio (like spin) and flexibility (like hatha yoga).
You can visit each participating fitness studio a maximum of 3 times per month, which includes studios with more than 1 location – i.e. you can visit Semperviva locations for a total of 3 classes per month.
There are more than 30 cities in Canada, the US and the UK with ClassPass, and with the launch of their new International Flex program, you can use your membership to workout at participating fitness studios when you travel!
Vancouver ClassPass memberships are $89 per month. If you’re planning a vacation, you can put your membership on hold for $19 per month, while there’s a $79 reactivation fee if you cancel your membership and then rejoin.
You can reserve your spot in class online 1 week in advance. There are limited classes per studio, and limited spaces per class, available to ClassPass users, so it’s worth choosing your preferred classes ahead of time and putting a reminder in your calendar to reserve your spot as soon as you’re able to. For example, you can register for a class next Tuesday at noon this Tuesday at noon, but not sooner.
Check out ClassPass’ FAQ page for more information.
Johanna Ward's DanceFit class at the YWCA is an amazing workout that's ridiculously fun. (Image: akanekondo.com)
For my latest assignment for BC Living, I set out to discover some of the best fitness classes in town, some incredible instructors, and some awesome apparel to look great while you work out.
I am so fortunate as a fitness, food and travel writer to learn about an experience so many amazing things! Research is often my favourite part of the job, as I get to know some incredible people doing wonderful things in our community – and that was definitely the case for this assignment.
Check out these classes if you want to have fun while you get fit!
Have you ever had one of those days where you just can’t gather the momentum for a workout? I have those days less and less as I deepen my understanding of the gift of moment and its incredible benefits for focus, creativity, energy, positivity and self-confidence.
I never feel worse after a workout, end of story. I know that it’s a super highway to feeling good, mentally and physically.
Yesterday, however, I was still in my bathrobe at 10am, having got up early to finish and submit a writing assignment for an awesome magazine. I was out of my usual routine of “wake, drink water, meditate, exercise” and having trouble gaining the momentum to get up and sweat.
The sun was making a rare appearance, amidst days of rain, so I knew I needed to get outside. I wanted something short and intense because I was planning on indulging that afternoon at Vancouver Magazine’s 25th Annual Restaurant Awards followed by dinner and movie with my husband.
I’m really fortunate to have a big patio and I felt like using my skipping rope – because even though it’s incredibly challenging it makes me smile like a big kid – so I came up with this little 12-minute workout that I’m excited to share with you!
By the way, how awesome are my snazzy new shoes? They’re the New Balance Minimus 10 Road. I love them! I got them from the amazing folks at Forerunners in North Vancouver. Ken Greenaway and Jerry Ziak are total pros who will make sure you’re in the proper shoes.
Throughout these exercises, focus on engaging your pelvic floor then your transverse abdominis as you exhale, spine elongated (maintain length between the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hip bones), chest lifted, shoulders back, and traps, neck and jaw relaxed.
Perform each exercise below for 1 minute with total focus on perfect form.
You can set your smartphone timer for 1 minute and reset between each exercise or use a free app like Ugi Fitness (read about the “hysterically hard” workout, which I love, here), and customize it to 1-minute intervals with no rest in between for 12 minutes (it also gives you a 10-seconds-to-go alert for each minute).
When you're done, make sure to take a few minutes to stretch. I like to begin with a couple of sun salutations for a gentle cool down and then move into some static stretches. Click here for more info on stretching and sun salutations.
Inhale as you lower your hips back and down, engaging your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves for a smooth, controlled decent
Keep your knees strong, without wobbling, and equidistant apart
Exhale as you raise your hips, squeezing your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves for a powerful ascent
This is a great way to work your middle and lower back without any equipment
Lie on your front with arms stretched out to the side, elbows slightly bent, and thumbs up
Gently begin to slide your shoulder blades down your spine and then squeeze them together to lift your arms off the ground
Then squeeze your lower back to peel your chest off the ground
Be sure to keep your neck and jaw relaxed, and look straight down, keeping the length in the back of your neck
Make them jump squats for added intensity!
Be sure to land softly, absorbing the shock to protect your joints
The bulk of my workouts happen at home so I can’t pull the old I’m-too-busy-too-exercise card. I’ve got dumbbells, resistance bands, yoga mats, a jump rope and other assorted fitness equipment in my home office so there’s never an excuse not to squeeze in some physical activity.
I do, however, love to join group fitness classes every once in a while, to get inspired, get new ideas, and have someone else push me in new and challenging ways.
All of those things – inspiration, ideas, pushing and challenging – happened when I first dropped in on Barre Fitness in Yaletown a few years ago on assignment for BC Living and got to meet co-owners Ella Jotie and Michele Murgel, who’ve built a huge following with their effective routines, skilled instructors and clean, modern facilities. I was super impressed by their attention to detail and safe approach to fitness program design.
Fast forward a few years and a move to North Vancouver and I just so happen to live near Barre Fitness North Shore (pictured above), which is kind of funny because I used to live a block from their Yaletown location!
I went to my first class at the North Shore location yesterday morning – the 7:15am Barre Fitness with the incredibly lithe Rebecca – and loved it so much I ended up getting their new member special, a 2-week unlimited pass for $40. Let the butt beautifying begin!
Actually, “trusty” might be a stretch – my current condo’s treadmill (and other equipment) is a POC (piece of crap) – but it’s better than nothing and it gets the job done!
Before you do any sort of running, it’s a good idea to do a little assessment of your joints, especially your ankles, knees and hips.
If you have foot problems, misalignment can spread up to your knees and hips. That’s been the case for me in the past (I was the flat-footed girl with the nerdy, orthotic-accommodating shoes), but recently I’ve directed extra attention to thinking about and developing proper alignment, and not only gone without my orthotics but transitioned to minimalist shoes.
Forgoing orthotics or switching to minimalist shoes may or may not be the right path for you, but regardless of what’s on your feet when you run, I hope you’ll find value in the following interview with my former employer Dr Stacy Irvine of Totum Life Science in Toronto on CityLine with Tracy Moore. It’s really helped me beef up my knowledge and action on the foot-form front. Read about it here.
I’m a big fan of interval training but can’t stress enough the importance of developing proper alignment, significantly warming up, and directing all of your attention to form throughout your run.
No spacing out! No sloppy crashing around. Focus. Work on developing those neuromuscular connections so your likelihood of injury goes way down.
Warm Up: 10 Minutes
Sprint Intervals: 8 Minutes
Cool Down: 2 Minutes
I’m a relatively new road cyclist and am still not completely comfortable riding around in traffic. When it comes to personal physical safety my motto is overzealous cautiousness.
In that light, I'm a huge fan of bike trainers. I’m building my cycling confidence, form and fitness while remaining totally safe. We currently have a bike trainer on loan from a friend and are trying to decide what type and brand to purchase for ourselves.
We’re really fortunate to have a large patio at our home, part of it covered, so even on a rainy day where I don’t feel like getting wet, I have no excuse not to get out there for a spin.
As with every type of exercise – be it cardio, strength or flexibility training – I think focusing on form, incessantly, especially in the beginning, to create strong and optimal neuromuscular connections is vital.
Put in the time to create the muscle memory for ideal posture, and eventually it will become second-nature (just like playing scales on the piano or perfecting your golf swing).
I discovered a kindred spirit when I discovered Dr Eric Goodman, a California-based chiropractor, speaker (check out his awesome TEDtalk, above), and author of the must-read book Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move With Confidence.
During my years working in a gym, I saw so many people focusing on their fronts, with endless sets of chest presses and crunches. I have nothing against those exercises but I noticed a large imbalance in the number of exercises most people were doing for the front of their bodies versus the back of their bodies, like rows, good mornings, deadlifts, and back extensions.
Because a very large percentage of the work force sits, likely all day at a computer – which creates an imbalance where the muscles in the front of the body (chest, abs, hip flexors) become shorter and tighter, and the muscles in the back of the body (rhomboids, spinal erectors) become longer and weaker – focusing on strengthening the back of the body, or the posterior chain, more than the front of the body is an excellent idea. It's an idea I drill into my clients' heads.
Focusing on strengthening the posterior chain is precisely what Goodman preaches, too. “Foundation training is based on the simple but unique idea that strengthening the posterior chain allows the strong muscles in your back to do their job of supporting the weight of the upper body and propelling movement,” says Goodman.
With personal trainer Peter Park, Goodman “joined forces to develop a series of exercises designed to change destructive movement patterns and build a powerful posterior chain, which begins with a strong lower back.”
Pick up a copy of the book for a detailed explanation of the basic Foundation workout, a moderate and intense workout, bonus exercises, and a foam roller workout (Goodman calls foam rolling the "poor man's massage").
Check out the video below with Goodman and Park demonstrating a quick workout, aimed at cyclists, for developing postural strength
Click here to check out my latest spin mix, with a nice long warm up followed by a slow and steady climb, sprinkled with a few steep sections. Enjoy!
Do the following 11 exercises for 30 seconds each, with a 15-second rest in between each exercise. This will take you 8 minutes.
Throughout each exercise, focus on keeping your transverse abdominis engaged (suck your belly button in), spine elongated, chest lifted, shoulders back, and traps, neck and jaw relaxed.
Warm up for at least 2 minutes before you begin. Here are some ideas:
And don't forget to stretch! Scroll to the bottom of this page to see a few of my favourite stretches.
In August, I read celebrity trainer Mandy Ingber’s book, Yogalosophy: 28 Days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover. This is how much I liked it: I bought it after reading my library copy cover to cover.
It's a pretty big deal for a book to make it onto my sacred bookshelf. Only the best get a coveted spot.
The book is full of inspiring quotes and anecdotes, is rooted in self-love, and combines yoga and strength training moves in multiple sequences for an awesome, challenging, energy-enhancing, grace-building workout.
Plus, each chapter ends with an action checklist. I love taking action and I love making checklists! This woman is awesome.
Here’s a fantastic video from PopSugar Fitness – a great resource for workout videos and fitness information – where Ingber (she’s Jennifer Aniston’s trainer! Have you seen Aniston’s body?!) leads a fun but tough little 10-minute workout. Hope you enjoy!
Throughout these exercises, focus on keeping your transverse abdominis engaged (suck your belly button in), spine elongated, chest lifted, shoulders back, and traps, neck and jaw relaxed.
These are a few of my favourite stretches that focus on the chest, spine, hip flexors and hamstrings. Add a few of your favourites too, and spend about 45 seconds on each stretch.
Chest & shoulders
Chest & abdominals
Hip flexors (repeat on each side)
Hamstrings (repeat on each side)
Catherine Roscoe Barr, left, and Mana Mansour talk about multi-muscle exercises at Steve Nash Fitness World and Sports Club.
I was so happy to share a little of what I’ve learned along the way through my work as a fitness professional and wellness writer, as well as my voracious appetite for new books and information on how to live your best life.
Everyone talks about fat loss and dieting and this pill and that exercise. But being well is simple.
I shared with Mana what I call The Winning Trifecta of Wellness: actions that produce optimal brain chemistry.
If you strive for optimal brain chemistry, everything else will fall into place.
The Winning Trifecta of Wellness includes stress management, exercise and nutrition.
The effects of stress management, exercise and nutrition on the mind are more powerful than their effects on the body – think of fat loss, muscle tone, flexibility, strength and endurance as pleasant side effects.
The effects on the mind are immediate. You feel happy, alert, positive, creative, vibrant, energetic and confident when you take time to rejuvenate your mind, move your body and provide it with the right fuel.
Once you discover the immediate effects of the Trifecta on your brain chemistry – how you feel – you’ll be more motivated to regularly take time for stress management, exercise and nutrition, much more motivated than working towards long term goals like losing 6 inches or dropping 15 pounds.
See the go! Vancouver segment below.
You can’t control what’s going on in the world around you but you can control how you react to it. Thoughts and feelings are chemical communication in your mind and body so do as much as you can to create a healthy environment, not a toxic stew.
So, forget about the long-term goals and focus on the now. Focus on how you feel. Don’t make weight loss your new year’s resolution – resolve to feel good by creating optimal brain chemistry through stress management, exercise and nutrition.
By making optimal brain chemistry your new year’s resolution, you can immediately feel energized, positive, creative, happy and vibrant – and fat loss, muscle tone, flexibility, strength and endurance will be icing on the cake of health and happiness!
Last January, the lovely Dawn Chubai told me about a new workout called Ugi. I went to investigate for myself and co-founder Sara Shears led me through a workout at her former studio in South Granville, which I wrote about for BCLiving.ca. Read the full story here.
The Ugi at home system – currently on sale for$169, regularly $189 – has quickly become my go-to workout. I love how challenging it is (I call it hysterically hard), varied it is (the DVD and workout book have 5 different workouts), it only takes 30 minutes, and I can do it in my living room or anywhere I can carry the Ugi ball to.
Here are some highlights from the BCLiving.ca story:
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.
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.
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.
Image: Flickr / petercruise
In a recent post, I mentioned a number of celebrities that follow the Tracy Anderson Method. After reading Movie Star Workouts on InStyle.com this weekend I was reminded of another trainer-to-the-stars whose philosophy I think is great: Harley Pasternak with his “5-Factor” approach (his famous clientele includes Megan Fox, Eva Mendes, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Jennifer Hudson).
I bought his book, 5-Factor Fitness, a few years ago and love the simplicity of the 5-Factor workout: 5 days a week, following a 5-phase program, with 5 minutes per phase for a total of 25 minutes. And in The 5-Factor Diet, he suggests eating, you guessed it, 5 times a day using 5 main ingredients per recipe that require 5 minutes of prep time.
He recently spoke to Elle.com about his new book, The 5-Factor World Diet, which explores the reasons why many other countries, including Sweden and Japan, don’t have the same struggle with obesity that we have in North America.
Check out the video below where he talks about his alma mater, the University of Toronto.
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.
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:
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:
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).
Blend all ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.
With so much information available about exercising it can sometimes feel overwhelming to make a plan and stick to it. If you’re experiencing this frustration and are ready to throw in the towel, keep this simple tip in mind: sweat every day. That’s it. Simple.
Just do something, anything – whether it’s lunging across a football field, dancing your heart out, or running along the seawall – that get’s you perspiring. Not only is this good advice on the fitness front but your skin will thank you, too.
The Lululemon manifesto declares “sweat once a day to regenerate your skin” and in his book Thrive: A Guide to Optimal Health and Performance Through Plant-based Whole Foods, professional vegan athlete Brendan Brazier says, “In addition to its ability to instigate regeneration, exercise has another anti-aging attribute: sweat production. Sweating helps exfoliate the pores, a necessary component of skin health.”
I first heard about Tracy Anderson a few years ago through Gwyneth Paltrow’s newsletter, GOOP. Say what you will about GP but that girl (who’s 38 and the mother of two young children) has a hot body and she credits it to her personal trainer, Tracy Anderson. The Tracy Anderson Method is a combination of dance-cardio moves and what Anderson calls “muscular structure work”, and other celebrity enthusiasts (and fabulous figures) include Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Richie, Stella McCartney and Madonna. Months after putting it on hold, it was my turn to check out Anderson’s new book, Tracy Anderson's 30-day Method, care of the Vancouver Public Library. I really like the unique moves and do my best to get through the challenging workouts (although some of them just make me laugh). And I'm expecting my very own copy, which comes with an exercise DVD, in the mail any day now.