Friday, December 21, 2007

how to choose a gym...

The workout and weight loss journey could really feel like a lonely one. It’s as if all of a sudden when walking into a gym all eyes are on you. There are many emotions and possibilities attached to any visit to any new gym - kind of like the first day of school but worse! Actually it IS worse…’s like being picked last in grade 5 gym class even though all along you would have much rather volunteered to clean toilets and scrub floors during that period to avoid the humiliation.

Losing weight and changing your lifestyle is uncomfortable enough. Throw in that mix the confusion of how to go about it in a foreign environment displaying many different apparatus resembling a scene out of a science fiction flick and it is downright discouraging! A good idea first before joining a gym (or choosing a trainer) is to take a tour of the facility at the same time of day which you would be working out in that facility. This will give you an idea of how crowded or not the gym is at that time and also will give you an opportunity to feel the vibe of the people (members and staff) with which you will be intimately sharing this space.

Other tips to consider before signing that contract:

-Call the gym first and ask for directions. How does the staff member answer the phone? Is there parking available or easy access by transit?
-What does the facility offer inclusive of your membership? Are there any classes which pique your interest? Are they extra cost? Do you even want to participate in classes or are you more a soldier who wants to go solo?
-Does your membership include: towel service, a locker, a fitness consultation with a trainer, buddy passes to bring your friend for a free visit?
-Are there any trainers working at the gym and is this a service that you are or could be interested in?
-Are there spray bottles with a disinfectant supplied throughout the gym so that the machines could be wiped of sweat after use? Are people using them!?
-Is there a comment box visible for complaints or suggestions? How are these comments dealt with and by whom?
-How interested or involved is the gym in your progress? Are there signs posted advertising seminars, food tips or motivational sayings? Are these postings updated?
-Are there any pieces of equipment with an ’out of order’ sign on it/them? Does the sign obviously appear to have been hanging there a really long time?
-Is the change room clean? Is this a space you would feel comfortable exposing your skin? Check the showers, is there soap grime, is there soap? Are there toiletries offered, is this important to you? Are there enough lockers to supply all the members of your gender at peak time?
-Is the person giving you the tour generous with their information and time?
-How long has the gym been in business? Who owns the gym? Private or Franchise?
-What are the payment options? Usually paying in full sum for the year will save you some money but do you feel more comfortable paying monthly in case of bankruptcy or foreclosure?
-What is the cancellation policy in case you move away or become ill?
-Is there an option to freeze the membership? How many times and for how long? Freezing a membership most of the time means that payment will still come out of your account as scheduled but the additional months will be added on at the end of the term. Be clear about this when you inquire.

At some point during your tour or after your tour, steal aside a moment to engage with an existing member to ask them out their experience at that gym. This could be casually done in the change room or washroom. Just make sure they are not a staff member and most people will be completely honest. If they are not happy with anything about the facility and are only there because they are stuck, they will gladly discourage you from making the same mistake!

Over the years, the gym industry has developed a bad reputation for pushing contracts too aggressively. Contracts are a reality when signing up for a gym in fact, if you are not presented with a pretty thorough contract then run! There is a reason for rules and regulations and it could be wrapped up in one word - liability! You want to be a part of a gym which takes liability seriously because it is serious business. Remember, you have rights as a consumer and before signing that contract find out how many days grace period you have to back out if you experience consumer remorse. I know in Ontario, Canada you have 10 days.

Shopping for a gym is the worst of it. After what seems like hard work in finding the right one for you, the rest should be gravy….low-fat of course!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Feet glide‘n, slip slide‘n,
Bag is swing’n , tupac is sing’n

‘me against tha world’

Tippity tap, smack, slap
Leather on leather, noth’n sounds better
Music to my ears - relinquish all fears
this is a time to be, free from reality
this is the place to see, dreams realized frequently

Just leave me be
the bag and me - together we create a harmony

Switch my stance, enhance my chance
to land that blow, replay in slow mo…tion

From toe to hip to shoulder then go - in for the kill
that will inevitably thrill....... and end the show!

More is Better?

Have you ever stopped to consider what exactly is the purpose of your fitness routine? Or, for what purpose would you have to start one? Much of the time there is an external reason or an indirect motivational force such as fitting into a certain article of clothing, to turn heads at an upcoming function or because your doctor had that concerned look on his/her face while poking and prodding you during your last visit. Sound familiar?

Then comes the decision to do something about ‘it’. At some point, exercise enters into the equation as a means to reach that goal and so it seems that if some exercise is good for you than how about more and more and more for better results?

Exercise is a stress on the body, albeit a good stress nonetheless too much of a good thing could become toxic. Just like overexposure to the sun will burn you, so will overexposure to exercise.
The human body only has so much recovery ability and any amount of exercise performed is a negative factor into it’s reserves. In order to stimulate change so that the body is forced to adapt so that it could take on new shape so that you could fit into that piece of clothing, then the exercise must be carefully prescribed on an individual basis in order to prevent burnout. In an over-trained state, your muscles will atrophy or become weaker from overuse and this is a big waste of time!

A reasonable means of measure is strength. Strength is the basis of how much you are progressing assuming that the purpose of your visits to the gym is to become stronger.

**Remember - Strength = Muscle= Higher Metabolism= Fat Burning**

Demonstrating strength is not only about a spontaneous bicep curl with your grocery bags but also a stronger heart which will improve your cardiovascular system, reduce high blood pressure, etc…What this means is that it would be wise to follow a program which could dictate at what point it is that you are regressing in strength.

A great many of us follow a calendar in order that we stay on track. January means resolutions, April showers bring May flowers, September is back-to-school and December signifies Holidays and over-eating. Within the months of the yearly calendar, we further break down our lives into weeks and days and hours - since we are paid by the hour on a weekly basis then it only makes sense to fit our workout routine into that formula. However this is by no means organic or holistic considering that the as resilient as the human body is, there is no forcing results on the body. The body has it’s own clock and it’s own agenda, so the next time you consider visiting the gym just because it is Wednesday and the program you are following requires a Monday/ Wednesday/ Friday weight-training session with a Tuesday/Thursday cardio-session for 1hour each session, consider this: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!

Working out does not have to be fun, in fact, if you are performing your exercises with the proper intensity then it should be somewhat of a daunting and painful task but it does not have to be gruelling and exhausting. Actually, you may even be surprised at the tolerance your body will develop and it will actually begin to crave that pump. The biggest mistake made however is a trainee literally dragging an already depleted physique to the gym with literally no gas in the tank and exposing it to further stress and demand (the workout) with an expectation of it to perform more and better than it did yesterday when it was just as tired and exhausted so that it could look really good in that cocktail dress next week!

Instead, visit the gym with motivation, excitement and intention, and not just because it is Monday.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

NLP and me!

This past week I had the pleasure of partaking in the final 6-day requirement to obtain my NLP certificate for the purpose of practising. It was mostly exciting as I was able to witness the power of the unconsious mind unfold in front of my very eyes. One thing I learned from my gracious teacher Pam Rigden is that GREAT teachers and speakers hold that space and provide that place for dynamic change at a human level - with ease, grace, intensity and pace!!!!

Stay posted for more information on NLP and what it could do for you.

In the meantime, check out

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Punch for Fitness, how Boxing could be just the activity you need. Yes, YOU!!!

The first introduction most people might have to boxing is often at a young age in uncle Joe’s makeshift sparring ring in the basement. Or, one might have been exposed to the sport unfortunately when Mike Tyson’s ear-biting fiasco hit the headlines. Whatever the memory, one can’t help but question the audacity of two humans stepping into a ring for the ultimate purpose of hurting the other. Besides it’s apparent pugilism, one thing is for sure; Boxers are in great shape for a reason - the training!

So what would it be like to train like a boxer and have a six-pack like a boxer without the sentencing to the ring? Frankly, it would be very possible - it IS possible! In fact, all one needs is access to a heavy bag (most gyms these days offer at least one or are at least open to the suggestion of including one) a pair of gloves, some instruction and a great big heart. What better way to fine-tune an otherwise boring fitness regime than to strap on the leather and hit something that doesn’t hit back? The art of boxing and its training has become more and more recognized as a great way to get in shape and relieve stress at the same time. It’s popularity in the local gyms has been fuelled over the last 15 years by such events as the rise of respected women in the sport such as Christy Martin and Laila Ali, celebrities publicly making claims about their own great experience with boxing and fitness such as Queen Latifa or the release of a sensational movie, Million Dollar Baby which depicted a very real and raw view of the sport. Whatever the reason, the very nature of the requirements to keep one’s hands up long enough to endure one round of two minutes on the bag will humble just about any soul.

The coordination, footwork, agility, balance, timing and perception are just the beginning of what will promise to be a stimulating ride! One does not have to have all of the above for a chance to meet the bag yet one must be willing to learn because learning will inevitably happen at a physical level, mental and emotional! As it’s practise is continued, one will develop a relationship with the opponent who doesn’t punch back and it will become personal. This is the beauty. It is a committed relationship requiring synergy and attention to the lessons being learned, the lessons about one’s own personal threshold, one’s own personal potential and one’s own personal battle. The bag will not judge, nor will it wince or complain, it is genuinely supportive and will hang the same way it always does - what more could one ask from a training partner?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Rules to Live By

choose your stance, stand on guard
train hard, fight harder - boxing is life
jab, slip, move - get into the groove
roll with the punches, give'em back in bunches
mechanics are textbook, style is your own
be stylish but don't be foolish
fools underestimate - it takes integrity to be great
be versatile, learn to adjust
make'em miss and come up with that kiss
which starts with a BOOM and ends in a BUST!
I come to box
for all I know 1-2-3 leads to a devastating blow
always have a back-up, learn to follow through
most important rule, stay true - to you and your crew.

I wrote this poem when I was in training for a fight during my amatuer stint as a boxer about 5 yrs ago. I found solace in writing and was especially creative in the weeks leading up to a fight when my liesurely options where otherwise reduced to a minimum. My body was being extremely stimulated so putting my thoughts on paper helped to nourish my brain and release some emotions through expression. Only since writing this poem I realize more how closely related are the rules of the ring to the rules of life.

Q and A of the day

I’ve been told that I need to accumulate activity to lose weight, what does that mean?

Consider that to lose one pound of fat is equal to burning 3500 calories. Generally, 1 hour of aerobic exercise ( running, biking, elliptical) uses no more than 300-400 calories.

This is not to suggest that for every pound you want to lose you must perform 10 continuous hours of aerobic exercise. Too much aerobic activity makes inroads into recovery ability, making the production of extra muscle tissue more difficult.

Now consider this: fat only needs 2 calories per day to sustain itself in your body whereas muscle needs 37.5! The proof is in the low-fat pudding! Reduce your calories in (250 - 500/day) and increase calorie expenditure by building muscle to improve your metabolism, which helps burn fat AT REST! This does not necessarily mean accumulating more and more exercise in volume but developing an ongoing tolerance to increased efforts during exercise so that the intensity is greater thus allowing for muscle growth. Build muscle, increase strength and let your body do the rest - AT REST!

You must decide what is important and reasonable in your weight loss quest. The idea of accumulating activity to lose weight is suggesting more and longer bouts of exercise, and could be misunderstood….accumulate until what point? How many miles or steps could you sustain week after week. The initial weight (water) loss will usually dupe the participant to expect the same results ongoing. But this is not sustainable or practical and could be very discouraging once the numbers on the scale stagnate, and you are one tired person! Weight loss should be consistently gradual.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Quote of the day

"Commitment isn't something that just happens by chance.
Commitment is a capacity, and it grows as a muscle grows,
by being exercised."

- Charlotte Beck

I came across this quote at the beginning of my Personal Training career and was immediately effected by it. I was pursuing an intense 1 year certification course and I found it inspiring to have these words written in bold letters on the first page of my manual. They served as a reminder, and as a reference, to what I would come to practise every day. I especially like the comparison relating the growth of commitment to the growth of a muscle!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Q and A of the day

I want to lose weight, I have been told that I should exercise at low intensities. Does that mean that I don’t have to work hard?

To address this question, we must first clarify exactly what you mean by lose weight.

In fact, for a great deal of people this really means lose body fat or inches and is not necessarily anything about losing weight on the scale. If your approach to lose weight includes strength training of any sort (which I highly recommend), keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat but will increase your metabolism ultimately helping you burn fat more efficiently, so don’t get discouraged by the number on the scale.

Unless you have a medical condition or have strict exercise restrictions as outlined by your doctor, there is no reason that the intensity of your workouts should be low - ever!

Exercise should be progressive so that the body is continually being overloaded and forced to adapt one repetition or one step at a time. This is a process which requires the intensity level to continually increase since as you become more tolerant or strong then you and your body could handle more. At this point, it is not more exercise that your body is requesting it is more intensity or effort within the exercise. As intensity increases so should the volume decrease to keep a balance in the equation.

This just means you don’t have to work hard for a long time. Keep it hard but brief and intense.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Q and A of the day

I need to lose weight off my arms, back and thighs. Can I just concentrate on those?

When we perform exercise of any type, we are placing a stress on the body which is general in nature affecting the body as a whole system. Whatever muscle group or body part we would like to focus on has an indirect effect on the whole body, which is suggesting that by performing larger movements requires more energy resulting in bigger demand from the body as a unit, including the arms, back and thighs. These exercises are called compound or multi-joint movements and include; squats, chin-ups, dips, deadlifts.

The body is a wonderful, diverse and resilient force! However, there are many factors to consider which will dictate our potential for achieving the absolute ideal and proportioned physique - these factors combine and make up what is called genetics.

First thing to consider is body-type or somatotype as coined by Dr.W.H.Sheldon. The three variables that recur most often are:

a) Ectomorph - a tendency toward linearity or slimness
b) Mesomorph- a tendency toward being muscular
c) Endomorph- a tendency toward soft round body contours

Other individual predispositions to consider are skeletal formation, muscle length and fibre type, fiber density, neurological efficiency, innate adaptability and psychological.

We are basically born with a certain number of fat cells and their distribution is genetically determined. Our body is designed a certain way and will take shape according to plan to a certain degree. To focus on a certain body part or spot reduce is taking a risk in actually overtraining that muscle resulting in atrophy and flabbiness.

The best that we could do for ourselves is to set realistic goals and to work hard overall within the means of what nature presented us with.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Tips for eating healthy

  1. Start your morning with 1 glass of water with added lemon (1/4 squeeze). This will stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid to aid in digestion throughout the day and help in proper elimination.

  2. Have breakfast within 20 minutes of rising and include a high quality protein. This will stimulate the metabolism and the protein will keep you fuller for longer. It will also help to prevent the midday crash and carbohydrate cravings. Breakfast protein options include 1% cottage cheese or 2 eggs or a whey protein supplement/shake.

  3. Eat every 3-4 hours to keep insulin from spiking and dropping like a roller coaster ride! Pack snacks to travel with you so there is no desperate reach for calories from poor sources (like the muffin at your local coffee shop while in line for your mid-afternoon coffee). Snacks could include a yogurt, almonds/walnuts, a piece of fruit, a sweet potato, humus and fresh veggies.

  4. Add seaweed flakes ( 1 tablespoon) to a meal once a day. There are over 60 minerals available which we are likely not getting from our depleting soils. This includes iodine which helps to nourish the thyroid and regulate body temperature and the metabolism.

  5. Add nutritional yeast as a substitute for sprinkling cheese such as parmesan on popcorn or pasta. There are quality B Vitamins available which help support the nervous system and combat stress. Also available is chromium which helps curb the appetite.

  6. Don’t take away from your daily diet, JUST ADD! By adding more water and fresh fruits and vegetables alone, the body will continue to ask for these vitamins and minerals, hence naturally weaning it off of poor choices. This WILL happen naturally. You just need to be consistent. Also, the mind does not feel deprived because logically you are first adding then taking away.

  7. Do not drink, anything 20 minutes before and after meals. The liquid dilutes digestive juices and impairs digestion. Remember, it is ALL about digestion.

  8. Remember, it is ALL about digestion! Take a digestive enzyme supplement if you are continually experiencing gas, bloating or indigestion after meals. Most common uses of a supplement is in conjunction with meats, dairy and legumes/beans. Our body naturally produces these enzymes so there is no harm of adding any additional or fear of becoming dependant.

  9. Chew your food carefully and s l o w l y! This lessens the amount of work the rest of your digestive system has to do. It also helps you relax while you eat.

  10. Start a food journal for 5 days running and have a friend commit to look it over with you by the end. You may be surprised that you don’t eat as healthy as you thought. You will also find more awareness in your food choices just knowing that somebody is "looking" over your shoulder.

Tips for moving healthy

  1. Dare to do what you like! Find an activity that you actually like to help keep you moving!

    Don’t join a gym if you dread the thought of going. Look into a lawn bowling club, fencing lessons, group exercise classes or your local community calender for upcoming events. Committing to lessons or a group of people will keep you more accountable than just to yourself.

  2. Build muscle! Muscle burns more than fat at a resting rate - period. This means that the muscle on your body requires more calories from your body just to sustain itself even while you are just watching TV and sleeping! Muscle increases your metabolism.

  3. Get yourself a new pair of fancy running shoes with a matching outfit that you will need to show off at the gym or on the court.

  4. Have a program designed for you (if you are going the gym route) by a personal trainer that you interview first. This will give you a tangible device to track your progress. You don’t know where you are going until you know where you are coming from. This should also save you plenty of time and aggravation while in the gym trying to figure how that space-looking machine is supposed to work your body.

  5. Jump rope. That’s it, just jump rope. It is safer on your knees than running, it burns just as many calories, it is good for the left-right brain relationship AND you can do it anywhere! You might even already know how to do it but forgot you knew. Who knew!?

  6. Stretch! Simply stretching your body sends an impulse from the brain to transfer back to the spinal cord with a reflex causing the muscle to contract, thus resisting the stretch. This means increased blood flow and more general awareness of your body and its function. Best time to stretch is first thing in the morning and after your workout. Before a workout, it is preferable to do a 5 minute warm-up, performing light aerobic activity and/or limbering movements (ie knee bends, side leg lunges, arm circles in front, etc.). Never stretch ‘cold’ muscles!

  7. Go High-Intensity not High-Volume! It is not necessary to completely exhaust the body and all its recovery resources in order to get in better shape. Exercise should be progressive, which means one pound increase at a time and one level more at a time so that the muscular and respiratory systems respectively could recover and ‘grow’. It does not mean more and more volume of exercise ... it is not how much exercise the body can handle, it is how little it requires!

  8. Create a CD or playlist on your portable listening device of music that motivates you. Set the length of the play list to dictate the length that your workout should be, give or take. This will give you a pace to workout to and you will be very aware of when you are cutting things too short or hanging out way too long. Make your last song a good one to wind down to. I recommend anything by SadeJ.

  9. Don’t weigh yourself. Unless you are competing to fit into a certain weight class, don’t weigh yourself ... not yet. Especially if you are starting a weight training program, muscle weighs more than fat and, in the initial 2 weeks, your muscles will be retaining more water hence upping your number on the scale. This is not a good indication of "progress" or "regress". In fact, it is usually more frustrating and demotivating for new trainees to see this number fluctuate in spite of all their hard work. Instead, take your body measurements and remeasure in 6 weeks. In the meantime, do the mirror test - flex your biceps and check’em out! Suck in your tummy and go on your tippy-toes, have fun in the mirror, learn to love yourself by looking at yourself. One day, a different body will be reflecting back at you but you will realize that you are still the same person flexing that bicep and sucking in that tummmy.

  10. Make your gym bag a bag of fun! Make it a ritual. Fill up your bag with motivating sayings, have a journal with a funky pen ready to write any thoughts, sprinkle in rose petals to ignite the senses, use an essential oil which you could access to give you immediate energy, pack fluffy slippers or a plush, elegant towel making you feel like the king/queen that you are! Have fun packing your bag in the morning and visualize yourself in the gym that day, watch yourself having fun ... that is, of course, if you ever leave the change room!