All posts by Louise

Tapping Your Inner Strength

sit upsSo the glorious summer of 2014 is behind us, the fall is with us with cooler temperatures  and the magnificent autumnal colours. Days can still be warm but the mornings have a dampness about it and since the clocks went back, the evenings are getting darker earlier, but still pleasant enough to get out and do things.

Over the last few months we have talked about all of the diverse activities that can be enjoyed during the summer and I do hope some of you have tried some different sports and workouts. There is no reason not to continue these into the fall should your schedule permit, or you may want to take a break and reflect on what you did in the summer, and plan more fun and challenging activities over the next few weeks.

Fall classes at rec and fitness centres are now in full swing so you may have already set your next challenge. Or you may be waiting for the New Year to really plan and set that one goal that has eluded you. Fall is a popular time for class sign up, but January far exceeds that. Rec centres traditionally hit a spike in January as we make those resolutions that we never break (right!) But let’s not move too far ahead of ourselves – we still have three months to go in 2014 so what are you going to do with that time?

This time of year is a good time to head back into the gym and work on your strength and core. If you are a runner you may have run or about to run that fall race that was your target goal. So now is the time to reflect on that, and enjoy the down time. You no longer have to get up on weekends at the crack of dawn to get in the miles. You don’t have to do those weekly hill or speed workouts any more. You can certainly keep up the running but not the intensity. So consider a twice weekly visit to the gym. Why? Building a strength and conditioning base will make you stronger and will reap huge benefits when you decide to set your next running goal. When we say strength that doesn’t mean bulk. Maintaining two sets of 15 reps of a chest press at a moderate weight, for example, will strengthen and tone. If you want more intensity – lower reps at a higher weight will do that. It really depends on your goal. We are all stronger than we think we are, so just go with the flow and see what works for you.

Regardless of what you do – maintaining form and a strong core is important. I do my chest press and pec flys lying on an exercise ball. That way I engage my core. Similarly, bicep curls and triceps dips I do standing on a Bosu – this is great not just for the core but balance. Adding these props also make workouts more interesting and challenging. Strength workouts (including warm up and cool down) don’t have to be long: 30 – 45 minutes, twice weekly is quite adequate for maintenance, particularly if you are new to this type of training.

Prior to starting your strength training warm up first on a bike, rower or treadmill for ten minutes. Gentle stretching can be your cool down afterwards. If you haven’t used a roller, and your gym has one, use it! Gentle rolling out your quads, hamstrings, even your back can have a therapeutic effect on your body. It’s rather like giving yourself a massage. Most gyms have sample exercises posted so consult those, or talk to the fitness consultant on its proper use.

The gym is also a great time to do those exercises that your physio, chiro and massage therapist gave you that you didn’t do. (We have all been there and find excuses not to do them). So take a few minutes at the end and work on those areas that were niggling you during your training. Again, this will only benefit you later.

So regard these next few weeks before the silly season starts, to reflect on your achievements over the summer and if you did a big race, give yourself a pat on the back. Then before you dive in headlong into your next challenge, consider the gym – it is an ideal way of complementing your current regimen while giving your body a well-earned break from hi-intensity training.  And you know what? You might get to like it and want to continue it when you do ramp up the miles again.


Last of the Summer Workouts

sea otter at Glencoe CoveWhat a summer we are having. This long stretch of hot, sunny weather means we have no excuse to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. With just a few weeks left of warm temperatures it is a great time to get those last few outdoor workouts in. With cooler temperatures in the early mornings and evenings it is also ideal conditions for running or cycling, particularly if you are training for a fall race and need to get those last few miles under your belt.

If there was ever a time to take the gym outdoors it is over these last few weeks of summer. There are still many outdoor workouts to take in as was summarized in the last issue – such as boot camps and yoga – but there are also many ways you can use our wonderful parks and green spaces to create your own training zone. This can be a form of circuit training – alternating cardio in between each exercise – or can be done on its own. This is also a great way to prepare you for the gym if you have had a break for a few months.

Here are some examples to try. Tip: do this with a friend – far more fun and you can challenge each other.

  • Tricep dips on park bench: just as you would do dips in the gym with a bench, a park bench is a great substitute. Place your hands behind you on the bench, legs straight and dip!
  • Push-ups on the grass: soft lush grass provides a great ‘mat’ for push-ups. If you find a full push-up too much, rest your knees on the grass.
  • Bench press on a park bench or log: as with the dips, bench presses can easily be done on a park bench or if you want a lower surface – a log.
  • Side leg raises on a bench or table (ensure table is stable): if using a bench ensure it is wide enough for this exercise. This also provides a great core workout because you are on an elevated surface. Raise one leg to the side at a 45 degree angle, repeat the other side.
  • Step-ups on a bench or log: for a less challenging exercise try a log. Alternate legs as you step up and down.
  • Squats with bench: stand with the bench behind you and squat as if you are about to sit down and then stand.
  • Explosive jumps with rocks or logs: find a log with no obstacles nearby and jump over front and backwards. Alternatively find some rocks and place at 3’ – 4’ intervals and leap frog over each.

If you want to do this as circuit training do one set of each: 10 – 15 reps, cardio (jog or rope skip for one minute are examples), and repeat for as many sets you can do in 30 minutes.

If you are a runner and want to try something different try running on sand. On Vancouver Island we are blessed with abundant beaches – so pick the beach that you feel would be the most suitable. Soft sand would provide more uneven footing so potentially could cause injuries, so hard packed sand may be the best option. Tip: for inspiration just imagine you are in Chariots of Fire!

So, enjoy the rest of summer with these workouts that are sure to challenge you, but they will also prepare you for whatever goals you set yourself this fall.

Get Moving on Summer


Speedway.Wide_With these hot summer days we are having, why not think out of the box and consider some summer sports that you may and tried or dabbled it, but hadn’t really given it a chance. Summer is a great time to be exploring trails, splashing around in the water or ripping up the tennis courts. So let’s see what else is out there to try.


While we are fortunate to be able to play tennis outside year-round on Vancouver Island, for many it is still a summer sport and with an abundance of public courts, the sport doesn’t require a tennis club membership, unless you want to play competitively or in a league. In Victoria there are courts attached to most parks – in Saanich itself there are over 20 locations each having a minimum of two courts. Nanaimo boasts 15 in parks and clubs, and in the Comox Valley recent expansion to the Anderton Park tennis facility will boost the number of courts there and in Lewis Park in Courtenay.


You may have seen the name on some tennis courts. But what is Pickleball? It is traditionally played on a badminton-sized court with special Pickle-ball paddles, made of wood or high-tech aerospace materials. The ball used is similar to a wiffle ball, but smaller. Some tennis courts have a Pickleball court marked in blue and will post times you can play. The net is lower than a tennis net so an ideal game for the little ones in the family to enjoy. More info at: www. 


For some of us there is nothing better than hitting the water in the summer, whether it’s kayaking or canoeing. There are many opportunities out there for novices, and organizations like the Victoria Canoe and Kayaking Club, Nanaimo Paddlers and Comox Valley Paddlers offer a range of courses and activities. Joining organizations such as these offers a safe and experienced environment and the membership is usually very affordable. If you want to learn more about padding you can take in MEC’s annual Paddlefest in Victoria on Saturday, July 12.


Mark Twain called it ‘a short walk spoiled’, but for some golf is a religion. But if you don’t take it too seriously then it can be fun. Par 3 courses – like Henderson in Victoria – are a great way to spend an hour or less, perfecting your skill. They are also a good family activity. If Par 3 sounds too strenuous try pitch and putt – also great fun.


Ultimate takes to the parks in the summer where you will see a disk (Frisbee) being thrown from player to player in a sport that now has over five million followers in the U.S. is where you can find all the information about leagues and the sport. Locally, the Victoria Ultimate Players Society, Nanaimo Ultimate and Comox Valley Sports has summer leagues and offers pickup games for members. But, of course you could also grab a bunch of friends and a Frisbee and head to the park and start throwing.


A guide to summer activities wouldn’t be complete without mentioning two perennial favourites, running and cycling. I have covered these activities many times in the past, but they are still worth a mention, if not as a reminder that we do have a variety of terrain on the Island and really no excuse to pump up the tires or throw on the running shoes.  If you like to run off-road and want a challenge then try out the Gutbuster trail series. There are two races left in the series: Transfer Beach – Ladysmith and Mt Washington. If you like to get down and dirty then try out the Island Cup Series – Vancouver Island’s premier mountain bike event. There are three races left – check out:

Outdoor Classes

Why stay in the classroom when you can do it outside? Many fitness professionals take their classes outdoors during the summer. Outdoor yoga is becoming popular in Victoria and a wonderful way to exercise while enjoying the summer heat. Bloom Yoga in Victoria offer Alfresco Yoga in July and August in a beautiful setting on the ocean. In the Comox Valley, Elm Health put on a number of outdoor classes including Fresh Air Fitness, and Jumpstart Boot Camp in Nanaimo has daily boot camps – all outdoors.

So get out there this summer and keep moving!



Setting Fitness Goals – the SMART Way

keep going We are now into the dark depths of winter when those memories of that incredible hot summer seems months, even years ago. We know this time of year comes upon us suddenly (and yes we  blame the time change) but we need to face the fact that we now have three months of winter ahead and we have to be an adult and deal with it.

In the fitness world we can a) turn our back on exercising outside and workout indoors; b) layer up and get out there and just do it no matter what the weather; c) get out that training plan and make a goal for the spring, or d) all of the above.  The last option is definitely the way to go. Hey this is Victoria – there is really no excuse not to continue to run, bike or hike here. (As I write Environment Canada informs me that it is -13C in Calgary and snowing.  Get my point?)

So now we are in agreement where do we start? It is that time of year when we tend to make resolutions for next year, and whether  you are a New Year Resolution person or not we all do at some point say we are going to do this, or change that because that is in our nature. Most of us want to change something about ourselves and often make too many lofty goals so they are dead from the get go. So it is important to make them SMART. Most of us have heard of SMART – Smart, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely – but many don’t adhere to this very simple but effective principle.

So you have run a 10K and now want to do a marathon. Wrong. The difference between 10 kilometres and 42.2 is huge. Make the half marathon the next goal – more achievable and less likely to fail (and we won’t even talk about the possibility of injury). You did the Tour de Victoria 50K and next year want to tackle the 140K. There is a 100K distance so why not make that your smart goal?

Goal setting and planning is always more achievable and manageable if you do it in a group setting. However, not all of us are ‘groupies’ and often prefer the solitude of exercising on our own, not being reliant on someone else’s agenda and timetable.  That is fine if you have the mental strength and character to do this. But there are a lot of groups, clubs and clinics out there whose sole purpose is to get you out there to exercise in a safe, friendly environment. And depending on the group, you can be paired up with individuals with the same ability and goals and like-minded attitude.

So where do we start? Get out that paper and pen (okay I am old fashioned) and write down your 2014 goals. Some examples:

  • Start a running/walking program
  • Run my first 10K
  • Train for my first half marathon or marathon
  • Train for my first triathlon

How do I go about doing this?

  • Write my own training plan (because  you are not a ‘groupie’)
  • Join a run clinic or triathlon club
  • Talk to my friends and arrange group runs/rides

Whether you are in a group or as an individual add variety to your training. On some days head into the gym and do some strength training or if it is really pouring with rain outside, use the treadmill, bike or elliptical. Cross training is good for you – not only does it add variety, it also helps avoid injury.

Most importantly, reward yourself after a challenging workout or run. Have a latté or a glass of wine and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. The next three months doesn’t seem so bad after all does it?

Happy Trails

cash and sal elk lakeThis is a great time to explore the wonderful trails we have in Victoria. Having had one of the best summer’s in history and a mild fall we had some glorious colours that make the west coast so famous.

I personally like nothing better than walking (with my dogs) or running through Arbutus-lined pathways strewn with freshly fallen leaves. The colours are also particularly special making a run a bright and cheerful way to start or end the day. We are lucky here as we can choose to run by lakes, the ocean or through residential areas where rural trails are in abundance depending on where you choose to go. Here are some favourites.

The 10k trail that circumnavigates Elk and Beaver Lake is a gem in Victoria. On a warm day it provides shade and on a rainy day – shelter. For those who like running or walking with their dogs it is ideal, with many places for your canine friend to cool off and to throw a stick for. The trail is marked every kilometre so GPS deprived individuals don’t have to worry about knowing how far they have come or how far they have to go. Watch for others enjoying the trail, in particular horses. Dogs can be off leash as long as they are under control.

If you like a challenge and a few undulations in a beautiful setting then Thetis Lake is a great place to run. Rated moderate to challenging by the CRD, this 834 hectacre park has a abundance of trails that intersect to you can make your journey as short or long as you like. Arbutus trees are a feature of this lake trail as is natural wildlife on the water. Like Elk and Beaver Lake there are areas for your four-legged friend to enjoy a cooling swim. The all-year round doggie beach is a particular favourite allowing your best friend to socialize with like-minded canines.

The Galloping Goose trail, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, is 60 km of sheer delight for recreational athletes with many cyclists also enjoying the Goose. The pathway is now paved all the way to Colwood. However, beyond Colwood it is still mainly trail and stunning to explore – particularly around Roche Cove and Matheson Lake and all the way to the Sooke Potholes. This part of the Goose is surprisingly quiet and largely undiscovered so ideal for a quiet, solitary run or walk. It is marked every kilometre so you can choose to join the trail at a convenient spot and venture forth for as long or short as you like.

Lochside Trail is a 29 km trail from Swartz Bay to Victoria and even though there are paved and road sections, the Royal Oak Drive to Sayward Road and beyond to Island View Road has some off road and is surprisingly quiet. It is a favourite for cyclists so if you are running with your dog then it is advisable to leash up. Ocean views are a feature of this trail.

There are other great trails in and around Victoria – Horth Hill Regional Park near Sidney and Durrance Lake in Mount Work Regional Park are two others worth exploring. If you do venture on to some of these trails this fall, particularly the lake trails, ensure you invest in some good trail shoes – this will help particularly ascending and descending any slippery inclines. So be sure to visit your local running store to get kitted out.


How to Stick to your New Year’s Fitness Resolution

It’s that time of year again when those often-dreaded three words comes to the fore – New Year’s Resolution. We have all made them and we either have the will to carry through with them or we break them, thinking there is always next year.  New Year’s Resolutions are often built around our self-esteem as we strive to look and feel better every year, which is why so many of them are health and fitness related.  I need to lose 10Ibs or I want to run a marathon or I intend to exercise at least four times a week. How many times have we heard these resolutions?  They aren’t big goals but they still need the discipline and the motivation for them to succeed.

The key is to make to make your resolution achievable. So many of us think too big and want to make the resolution the biggest thing that has ever happened. You will not succeed. Think the SMART principle. SMART can be applied to any of our goals – whether it is family, business or more specific like your health.  Smart, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely should be the basis of any resolution.  So you would like to run a half marathon or marathon? Then plan. “By joining a running clinic in January you can meet up with like-minded runners and be placed in a group according to your ability,” says Rob Reid, owner of Frontrunners. “Running clinics have a goal race in mind, and over the training period you can work towards that goal while sharing your experience with others.”

The resolutions likely to succeed are the ones that don’t involve a major change to routine. So you are already running but getting bored with doing the same routine. Try cross-training (see November’s issue for some tips) or join one of the growing triathlon groups. Many of these groups have every level from beginner to experienced and offer expert instruction on all three disciplines. If you enjoy cycling but want to do more, then make a Gran Fondo or the Tour de Victoria your goal. Because of the growing popularity of these events there are groups you can join that have training plans specific to an event.

Goal setting shouldn’t be daunting if it is approached properly and in a holistic way. “In the yoga world we often marry goal setting with something called an intention (or manifestation). It is equally, if not more, important to create some conscious intention in what we are doing, as this allows us to be present, “says Lindsay Knazan, owner of Fierce Studio. “An intention is a path or method of practice what allows us to look at how we are ‘being’ or would like to be in our current life/present moment. We feel a purpose and are able to connect our aspirations together and integrate them holistically so they become sustainable. This way there is a greater chance that we will stick to a new fitness and health routine.”

When we make fitness resolutions, we mustn’t neglect good nutrition. We all over indulge over the holiday season so getting back on track in the New Year with a nutritional program should accompany your fitness routine. Keeping a log of your daily meals and snacks often helps with making sensible food choices – and keeps you honest!

Writing your goals down is a good way to help with sticking to your resolution. “Make it clear and concise, look at it every day and read it as your mantra, especially when you are ready to give up,” Kazan suggests. “Write down WHY you are doing it, so you can remind yourself of your intention and desire to make this change for YOU.”

Resolutions shouldn’t be a chore or a bore, they exist because we want them and we need challenges and goals in our lives. But remember to reward yourself along the way as you make steps to achieving that goal, whether it is a piece of chocolate, glass of wine or a mochachino. Then making that resolution does seem worthwhile.

Keeping Motivated During the Winter Months

We are are on the cusp of winter and shorter days and as I hear the rain pounding against my window, and the wind howling through the trees I wonder, how do we stay motivated to run?  Running in rain is usually okay but ice and snow can really get us into the doldrums. So how do we avoid the couch and the remote, and keep ourselves on track with our fitness goals?

The first thing to realize is that winter is here. Get over it! It won’t go magically away so we need to adapt mentally and physically. We are fortunate in Victoria that we can participate in outdoor sports throughout the winter. As an ex-Calgarian who put up with 20 years of ‘those’ winters I actually enjoy Victoria winters. My really thick Calgary thermals are gathering dust in my closet, but I do get out in tights, jacket, gloves and toque (I bought them so I will wear them!) and run on leaf sodden paths around the lake, or through an eerie mist, a light rain drizzle or a fresh sprinkle of crisp snow. And it’s never really that cold here, so we aren’t battling the elements like other parts of Canada.

The key to getting out, particularly after a long day in the office when filling that glass with wine is far more attractive than peeling on tights and jacket, is to plan ahead. Change up your running routes, run with friends (then afterwards go for that glass of wine), join a run clinic, set your race goals, or buy some cool new reflective running gear (remember – you have to look good).

If it is dark then you are restricted to certain routes; make sure they are well lit, well frequented and have good footing, but at weekends – go for it. Running on Dallas Rd in winter with waves lashing the beaches and the sea spray in your face is very invigorating. Running Elk – Beaver Lake trail is another winter favourite and a great way to stay sheltered if your pet peeve is wind and rain. Just remember as you look out at the lake and see the Canadian Men’s-Eight team practicing – they have been there since 5 am, so why are you whining? Lockside Trail is also sheltered and offers a variety of running surfaces – and it is always busy so you aren’t alone, as you contemplate what to have for breakfast. Talking of which, always arrange a reward for yourself after you run – go for coffee and breakfast. Meet friends in a different part of town and try other eateries.

If you are a runner that does races and wants to keep motivated then enter some winter races – Thetis Relays in November is a fun trail team event that clubs and families enjoy. Or there is the Island Race Series that starts in January and runs every two weeks up and down the Island until April. The underlying factor with these events is food and hot drinks afterwards all prepared by volunteers. Now that’s a motivation to get out.

We’ve touched on clothing, which is an important part of enjoying the winter running experience. Suffering from Reynaud’s (white finger tips) I know the importance of staying warm. A warm body is a happy body so take the time to invest in some decent clothing from top to tail. Ear bands and hats are an essential item if you feel the cold (remember 80% of your body heat is lost through the head!) as are gloves or mitts. You may need to wear one, two or three layers on your body depending on the weather and wind chill. There are many thermal and technical moisture-wicking fabrics out there so ask your favourite running store for recommendations. Tights can come in varying degrees of thickness so this will depend on the temperature and your comfort. And don’t forget socks. Cotton is out – smart wool is in. You will never have cold tootsies again wearing those!

Hopefully these tips will motivate you to embrace winter and not reject it. You never know you may get to like it and decide to move to Calgary!