Blog Archives

Rest & Recovery: Why You Need It

Rest and recovery; the R & R’s of the fitness world. Most may think they are the same thing- and while they are both critical elements of any successful training program- they are also the least utilized.

The Difference?

First, a little math

  • The average person may train about 4- 8 hrs/ week
  • This leaves you with 152-156 of non-training hours/ week to rest & recover

You would think that’s more than enough time to recharge and be ready to hulk-smash that next workout, yet there are some that will be walking into the gym and dragging through their workout.

Rest: according to Merriam- Webster

1repose, sleep; specifically:  a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities 

2a:  freedom from activity or labor

  b:  a state of motionlessness or inactivity

  c:  the repose of death

3a place for resting or lodging

4: peace of mind or spirit

Most of these (except for 2c) are a combination of time that is spent sleeping and not training. It is also the easiest to understand and implement.

Recovery: encompasses many aspects and refers to techniques and actions that are taken to maximize the body’s repair. Recovery involves different systems in our body that require time to repair, these include muscle repair, chemical and hormonal balance, nervous system repair, and mental & spiritual.

For most, the goal should be to have a a good balance between exercise, nutrition, and rest & recovery. Make heath and fitness a priority without personal sacrifice. Don’t be afraid to enjoy a night out with friends, or a piece of your own birthday cake. Unless you are a professional athlete, don’t overwhelm yourself with perfection.

The Approach

  1. Get enough sleep. Although different for everyone, the recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7-9 hours. Sufficient sleep helps to with mental health, hormonal balance, and muscular recovery.

      2. Keep Hydrated. Water is critical to our bodily functions. It aids in nutrient uptake, helps regulate body temperature, protects and moisturizes the joints, and aids in riding the body of toxins. Drinking adequate amounts of water is critical to health, energy, recovery, and performance. The easiest way to check for dehydration is in the color of your urine. If it is a dark yellow, then you definitely need to increase your intake.

    3. Nutrition. Everything you eat has the ability to help heal your body, or to hurt it. Eating clean and balanced meals in moderation, and reducing the amount of processed foods is proven to be effective to remain healthy and increase performance. Pay attention to how your body reacts to the types of foods you consume. I believe that unless you have a reaction to it or an underlying issue, there’s no need to cut out specific food groups. Including variety in your food choices will make it easier to eat healthy.

4. Stretching. You should be able to move your joints through their full range and be pain free. If you can’t then that means that your flexibility is being compromised. Having a desk job can contribute to tight hip flexors and bad posture, so be sure to include dynamic stretching in your warm-ups and save the static stretching for after your workouts. Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility.

 

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5. Self-Myofascial Release. This works by finding tight muscle areas, applying pressure to those trigger points to release the tightness, and then ahhhh!! This can be done with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or your hands. (Just an fyi if you’re new to it: self-myofascial release is painful at first, but so, sooo good afterwards)

6. TLC For Those Injuries. It goes without saying that if you have an injury, your rest and recovery will be longer. Remember to use the typical heat, ice, compression, elevation for any injury you may have. The more tlc you show it, the faster your recovery.

 

And that’s it. Ensure that your body gets the care it needs. The fact that you are already exercising is great, and with enough time to recuperate, your hard work in the gym will surely show!

Happy Training 🙂

To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.

-Buddha

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Why You Can’t Just “Wing It” If You Want Results

“What should I do today?”

“Legs.. I’ll do deadlifts. No, wait..maybe some squats..when was the last time I did squats?”

If you’re deciding what your workout will be as you’re walking into the gym.. then I’m sorry to say.. but

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In order to see any results you need to have a structured program. Walking into the gym, let alone trying to reach any goals without a fitness plan, is like trying to drive in a foreign country without a map; you will eventually get somewhere, but where you end up may or may not have anything to do with where you actually wanted to be. Without a proper fitness plan you have no way of tracking your progress, and no way of knowing if you will reach your goals.

The Right Way

Write down your goals. This is the first step to create a fitness plan. Do you want to reach a certain PR in your deadlifts? Do you want to chisel your back? Maybe you just want to feel comfortable on the beach. Whatever your reason is to workout you need a structured fitness plan to get you there. Once you’ve established what you want to accomplish, you need to create a ‘map’ to get you there, these are your short-term goals. Short-term goals are mileposts on the way toward your long-term goal.

Example:

  • Long term goal: doing 12 unassisted chin-ups
  • Short term goals:
    • wk 1-4: build muscle strength by doing band assisted chin-ups
    • wk 5-8: work on holding your weight- negative chin-ups 
    • wk 9-12: 3 unassisted chin-ups x 2 sets, 1.5min rest between sets (add 1 set per week)
    • wk 13-16: 4 unassisted chin-ups x 3 sets, 1.5 min rest between sets
    • wk 17+ : gradually increase reps per set, until 12 straight reps achieved

 Establishing a fitness plan eliminates the guess work and tracks your progress. Having a schedule to follow helps eliminate the “I’ll do it tomorrow” thought pattern and holds you accountable. Once you get into the habit of following a plan, you’ll see how easier it is to get through your workouts which in turn helps motivate you to succeed. Also by having a visual record of your progress means you can actually see how far along you’ve come, which is always motivating.

Keep It Simple

It doesn’t need to be fancy (unless that’s your style). Simply having a small journal with your workouts written in them and space to write in reps, sets, weight, is enough. The main point is to make it a habit.

And that goes for any goals in general. The only way to ensure you reach them is by writing them doing, creating a ‘map’ & then following it. It eliminates any guess work, helps you be prepared for any obstacles you may encounter, and serves as a visual record of how far you’ve come and how much closer you are to your end point.

 

And that’s that.

 

Happy Training 🙂

  

Tips For Getting Your ‘Summer Body’ Ready

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In Canada the winter months may seem ENDLESS, the layers of clothes are many and most people tend to go into some type of ‘hibernation mode’ (too much food, too little exercise). More often than not you might have experienced some weight gain. Or you could be in a building phase, which is typical during the winter months, and your intake has purposely been higher & workouts scaled back to allow for some gains/ growth. In either case you will have found yourself to be carrying a bit more cushion than you might like.

At the first sign of spring, the gyms seem to come alive with those looking to perfect their ‘summer  body’. The average person will spend hours on end on their cardio machine of choice in hopes of shedding unwanted weight gain and/or reduce their food intake way too much. This will only work against your body by killing your metabolism resulting in little to no change at all.

Here are some tips to help rev up your metabolism so that you can shed those last stubborn pounds and reveal your summer physique.

Better Food Quality. Your meals should consist of nutrient dense, whole foods. Cut out sugar & high processed foods as these do nothing to promote optimal body composition and only put you at risk for metabolic diseases. Be sure to consume a lot of dark leafy vegetables (aim for 1-2 cups per meal), anti-oxidant rich  fruits and beneficial fats.

Protein With Every Meal. High-quality, high-protein intake keep you feeling full longer. It also sustains lean mass which in turn increases your metabolic rate (more muscle mass= more calories burned at rest). This is very important if you are trying to lose body fat. Also, don’t make the mistake of cutting calories without increasing protein as this will cause you to lose muscle mass along with fat mass, lowering your metabolism. Include lean red meat, fish, eggs in your meals. A clean, low-carb protein powder can help supplement your diet.

Include 4-5 Days of Weight Training. In order to look lean & tight you need to increase your muscle mass and reduce body fat. To do this you need to make sure you are really stressing out your muscles. Repeated tension or load on the muscles will cause the muscle to adapt and grow over time. Most people don’t lift heavy enough, or they continuously lift for the same amount of high reps and only 3 sets per exercise. Proper stress will only occur if you vary your training; ex: High-volume training (high reps, mod weight), high-load training (4+ sets, 4-6 reps, 85-90% of 1RM), varied tempo. Also be sure to include big compound movements (squats, deadlifts, pulls, presses, chin-ups) as these are multi-joint exercises and recruit major muscles.

Sprints vs. Steady State Cardio. While distance running (steady state cardio) has its benefits (heart friendly), if you are looking to seriously burn off body fat, incorporate sprint training into your workout regime. The high intensity of sprint training causes the same metabolic stress on the body as weight training. Just take a look at a sprinter’s body vs a marathoner. Have you ever seen a sprinter who carries extra cushion on them? Nope, neither have I.

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Reduce Stress. High levels of stress from work/ every day life will result in high levels of cortisol being released into the body. This will actually lead to an increase in fat mass especially around your mid-section. Take time to unwind & reduce your stress levels. Meditation,  breathing exercises, yoga are just a few ways you can reduce stress levels.

Recovery. Give your body rest. All the hard work you put in the gym, although beneficial, is still a stress placed on your body. Too much of a good thing can ultimately lead to overuse injuries, fatigue and even weaken your immune system. Allow your body time to repair & rebuild, and always listen to your body.

Happy Training 🙂

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Monday Motivation

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There’s something about holding a kettlebell that makes me oh-so-happy :).. so with the weather not being nice today I decided to do my workout at home. It was just me and my kettlebell (60pds) and good ol’ rope.

So today’s workout was a circuit:

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☆Sumo deadlift 15×8
☆2-hand press 6×8
☆Kettlebell swings 25×8
☆Jump rope drills 90sec x8 (not pictured)

Total time: 48min 52sec 😥

Benefits of Kettlebell Training

▪ Most people are unaware of over  training the front side of their body (ex: chest, abs &quads, aka: the mirror muslces). However, the back side of the body (posterior chain) is equally important for functional and esthetic reasons. Kettlebells promote coordination among all the muscles of the posterior chain. Training these muscles corrects posture, imbalances and reduces lower back pain among others.

Quick Fact: Your posterior chain is a group of muscles, tendons, & ligaments on the back side of your body. These are the lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves.

▪ They promote hip flexor flexibility & strengthen the abdominal muscles. This reduces pelvic tilt & decreases lower back pain.

▪ Trains your body to work as a unit. No kettlebell exercise is ever a single joint movement. Every swing, lift, or press engages many joints & muscle groups forcing the body to always work as a unified whole.

▪ Teaches proper bracing of the abdominal cavity. People tend to suck in their stomach when told to ‘engage the core’. Kettlebells teach ‘bracing’ the mid-section (as if someone was about to punch you in the stomach). This internal pressure created by your breath and abdominal wall supports your back, making you stronger.

▪ The acceleration/deceleration of moving a kettlebell strengthens connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, cartilage). This increases mobility, strength & flexibility reducing the possibility of injury.

So there you have it.. just some of the benefits these awesome chunks of iron can have on the body when incorporated into your workout.

Happy training 🙂

Where My Journey Began

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From the moment I picked up my first piece of iron in my highshool weight room I knew what I wanted to do.
I still remember it as if it was yesterday.. a small, windowless room with dark grey walls, a few posters that included the anatomical positions, the muscular system, and an exercise guide for the universal cable machine that sat in the middle and occupied most of the room. It was an intro to weight training, which was part of the phys ed. curriculum for grade 12. The feeling of holding those outdated dumbbells was something I can’t describe.. but my curiosity for this unknown world is what I found alluring and was my first step into this industry.
The first time I opened up my first anatomy & physiology books in college I was overwhelmed with information about the human body. I was mesmerized by the way the body works both physiologically and physically. This only served to reaffirm my belief that I was on the right path.

It’s been almost 10 years in this industry and I have learned so much in the classroom, from fellow trainers (especially from the last studio I had the pleasure of working at) and from experience.
It’s true that in this industry it’s easy to become certified as a personal trainer.. but what sets apart the real trainers from the fake is the willingness to learn & continue learning, the passion for helping others and the commitment to the work. A good trainer inspires, educates and listens. We give tough love when we need to and praise you when accomplish goals.
My journey in the fitness world is now taking me in a new direction. I am nervous and excited as I have slowly been building up to this. I am still eager to learn as I think it’s imperative to keep learning new skills..and I will continue to do my best.

The iron jungle has been my classroom, my work, and is my refuge. It is where my journey began and where I continue to be. It is a place where I have unleashed my frustrations, pushed myself beyond my limits, and grown as a trainer and coach.

It’s where it all began 🙂

Eating & Training For Your Body Type

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So you’ve probably heard alot about the different body types  and might be confused as to what this all means ( don’t get confused with body shape, ex: hourglass, pear, apple, square..etc).

THE 3 SOMATOTYPES

In the 1940s Dr. William H. Sheldon introduced the concept of body types, or somatotypes. Since then, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and even doctors have used it as an aid in designing effective, individualized fitness plans. The concept is that we all fall into the three categories below (although you can possess attributes of two different categories or even all three). Keep in mind that these are generalizations on basic skeletal somatotypes.

The body type that we are born with is based on an inherited skeletal frame and body composition. Most people are unique combinations of the three body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. Some typical somatotype combinations include pear-shaped ecto-endomorphs (thin, delicate upper bodies & high fat storage in the hips and thighs), and apple-shaped endo-ectomorphs (high fat storage in the mid-section & thin lower bodies).

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The “I” Type

• Aka: Ectomorph
• Are thin, with smaller bone structures and thinner limbs ( Ex:typical endurance athlete, basketball players, runway models).
• Low body fat & low muscle. They have a hard time gaining mass.
• Have a fast metabolic rate.They’re high-energy and tend to burn off excess calories with near-constant movement throughout the day.
•High tolerance of carbs. Can eat almost anything without affecting their weight.

Nutrition & Training for ” I ” Types

• Higher carbohydrates in the diet + moderate protein + lower fat intake.
• Limit cardio to 1x/ week or even eliminate if possible
• Train each body part 2x/ week
• Vary your rep range. Train in the 5-8 rep range for your compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc.), but go up into the 8-15 rep range with smaller muscle groups.
• Ensure proper rest & recovery as this body type can easliy overtrain.

The V” Type

• Aka: Mesomorph
• Athletic, solid, and strong. Not overweight and not underweight,
• Can gain and lose weight without too much effort.
• Usually have a considerable amount of lean mass (Ex:explosive athletes like sprinters, wrestlers and gymnasts).
• Are built to be powerful machines. Excess calories often go to lean mass and dense bones.
• Tend to be testosterone & growth hormone dominant. If active this type can easily gain muscle and stay lean.

Nutrition & Training for “V” Types

• A mixed diet, with balanced carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
• Cardio should be 3x/ week or less. Mesomorphs will benefit most from HIIT
• Due to rapid adaptation to conditioning, the body should be constantly hit with a combination of slow & moderate exercises, focusing on full ROM with weight training exercises that use fast reps produce good results.
• Hitting compound muscle groups with heavy weights followed by targeted isolation and definition exercises at a mid rep range of 8-12 works well. Legs should be hit with both low and high reps.

The “O” Type

• Aka: Endomorph
• Larger bone structure with higher amounts of total body mass and fat mass. (Ex:Football linemen, powerlifters, and throwers).
• Have the slowest metabolism
• Are built for solid comfort, not speed.
• Naturally less active, which means excess calories are more likely to be stored as fat.

Nutrition & Training for “O” Types

• Endomorphs don’t tolerate carbohydrates well, especially if they are sedentary.
• Do best on a higher fat & protein intake with a lower carbohydrate intake being properly timed (typically post-workout).
• Cardio should be about 3-4 sessions of cardio per week of about 20-30min
• Training should include high intensity exercises with minimal rest periods between sets (60sec or less).
• To achieve maximum muscle mass, push every set for as many reps as possible, increase weight when you can to maximize progressive overload. This will keep you within hypertrophy ranges (muscle building rep ranges) & help you burn off fat & build more lean mass.

So I think I’ve covered the basics. Hope this helps you understand your body so you can adapt your eating and training to best suit your goals.
For more detailed information on nutrition for your body type (which includes some nice infographics) click here.

Monday Motivation: Metobolic Workout

I started the week off right. I got a metabolic workout in right in the morning (done at home). I’m not a fan of cardio as I get bored quickly (exercise ADD?!) so this is my go-to for some serious calorie burn.

First let’s cover some background on metabolic workouts.

What Is It?

The simple definition of metabolic training is a workout containing structural and compound exercises done with little to no rest in between exercises. This maximizes caloric burn, increase metabolic rate (amount of calories your body burns at rest) during and after the workout, and seriously challenges your cardiovascular system.
Because structural & compound exercises are multi joint exercises (like squats & chin-ups) they require an intense amount of energy to execute, and when done as part of a metabolic workout you are really burning off that fat. The calories burned during this type of training can easily reach around 500 calories for a 30 minute workout, increasing your metabolic rate anywhere from 10-25% for up to 48 hours, and some studies have shown an increase in metabolic rate for up to even 72 hours. Over time these hundreds of extra calories burned can become significant.
(Here’s a study on impact on post exercise oxygen consumption.)

My Workout: Ascending/Descending Ladder

● DB Front squat (30 pds)
● DB Bent over row (30 pds)
● Pushups
● Burpees

》Set 1: I did 1 rep of each, then 2 reps, then 3…till I reached 10 reps (note: I did not stop at all till I finished the set) Completed in 21min 15sec

》Rest 2min

》 Set 2: Worked backwards from 10 reps to 1 😧 Completed in 24min 42sec

Variation: I used weight to up the intensity level. To make it easier lose the iron and stick to body weight exercises.

Oh and I have to share this cereal that I found on the weekend.. perfect for a post-workout meal.
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Happy training!

Good Mornings

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The good morning is a posteriorly top loaded hip hinge movement that works the whole posterior chain. This compound movement targets the spinal erectors, low back, hips, glutes, and hamstrings. Although often neglected it is an exercise that has many benefits:

▪ Loads the deep core muscles of the lower back
▪ Trains proper hinging and requires proper firing of the glutes
▪ Teaches you to keep the lumbar spine in a controlled posterior tilt as you extend the hips back and bring them forward
▪ Teaches you to firmly ground yourself into the floor and balance your weight from the mid-foot to the heel
▪ Prevents hamstring and low-back injuries (common in those who focus too much on the anterior chain, like quads and abs, and not enough on the posterior chain muscles)

Apart from strengthening the posterior chain, including this exercise in your training will also aid in your squat and deadlift (you will be able to lift heavier ;)).

How To Perform Good Mornings:

○ Place a barbell at shoulder height on a rack
○ Rack the bar across the rear of your shoulder blades, as you would place when performing squats. This is your starting position
○ Slowly, exhale as you bend forward by pushing out your hips behind and torso forward, till you are almost parallel to the floor or when you feel a mild stretch on your hamstrings
○Now, inhale as you go back to the starting position by pushing through your hips and hamstrings
○Keep your back straight and knees slightly bent throughout the motion

Variations

○ Wide stance good mornings (targets glutes & hamstrings more)
○ Banded good mornings

Warning

》Avoid swinging while going forward or coming back up
》Keep your spine straight and in line with your head throughout the entire range of motion
》The good morning exercise could place excess stress on the lower spine and cause significant injury if done incorrectly. Start with a very low weight slowly work up from there
》Avoid locking out the knees as this places significant stress on the low back

(See how to perform the exercise here)

Regaining Strength… 1 Year Post-Partum

      “If it doesn’t challenge you,
      It doesn’t change you.”
                             Fred Devito

So its been been almost a year since I got back into training again after my little guy was born (I took the recommended 6 weeks to recover). I have to admit that I’m not where I thought I’d be.
Due to quite a few pregnancy discomforts (from symphysis pubis dysfunction, to carpal tunnel syndrome, and then mommy thumb post-partum 😩) I lost alot of my strength. 

I was quite discouraged (ANGRY) after my first workout post- pregnancy where I unsuccessfully tried to deadlift at almost my max weight: 135pds (pre-pregnancy: 160pds).
I couldn’t get the bar off ground :oops:.
I drastically reduced my deadlift to a (sad) 50pds. My squat was scaled back to a mere 40pds… pull ups I could no longer do unassisted.  Pushups only from my knees.

I had to go back to the drawing board and rewrite my program. My focus would now be to strengthen my severely weakened grip, work on correcting my hip alignment, and further strengthen my core.

I have slowly started to see my strength return. And with that my ‘issues’ are taking care of themselves. Every time I add an extra plate or move that pin further down the weight stack I smile and do the happy dance (in my head of course!).
It’s taken me longer than I initially planned for and I had to create a new program to ‘fix’ myself first,  but I gritted my teeth and stuck through it and now I’m seeing results! I have to remind myself that pregnancy is a major change and stress to the body. It took 9 months of growing a baby.. it’s definitely not going to take less than that to return to where I was.

We all experience bumps along the road.. some will be harder to get over, but we shouldn’t let these stop us or derail us.
I know I’m not!

My Progress:

Deadlift
Day 1: 50pds
Current: 110pds

Squat
Day 1: 40pds
Current: 70pds

Pull-ups (assisted)
Day 1: 120pds
Current: 70pds

Pushups (from toes)
Day 1: 0
Current: 12

Peanut Butter Protein Treats

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So these bad boys can be used as a snack or post workout meal. The goodness of peanut butter and chocolate in a bite-sized snack.

Ingredients

▪ ½ cup (125 mL) of cocoa powder
▪ ¼ cup (75 mL) of chocolate whey protein powder
▪ ¼ cup (75 mL) coconut flour
▪ ¼ cup (75 mL) organic quinoa flour
▪ 1tsp of baking soda
▪ 1tsp of vanilla extract (optional)
▪ 3 large cooked beets, mashed
▪ ½ cup (125 mL) liquid egg whites
▪ ½ cup (125 mL) of milk
▪ Peanut or other nut butter
▪ Unsweetened shredded coconut

Serving Size:
1 delicious square

Preparation time:
☆40-50 minutes (15 min preparation time + 25-35 min cooking time)

Directions:
☆Preheat oven to 320F (160C).

☆Blend all dry ingredients together in a large bowl

☆In a smaller bowl, blend all moist ingredients (i.e. beets, egg whites, milk).

☆Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix.

☆Pour into greased baking dish.

☆Bake for 25-35 minutes at 320 F (160C), or until the cake cooks through. (Keep an eye on it – don’t let it overcook because then it’ll get super dry and rubbery.)

Optional:
Spread a little peanut or nut butter on top or sprinkle unsweetened shredded coconut!

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