Category Archives: Fitness

Fit to Travel

foam-roller-the-grid-product1

Summer is a great time to get outside and maintain your fitness regime. For many it is time to start training for fall races, for others just enjoying the many summer activities on offer is a must. Summer is also a time for vacation, and we are often faced with the dilemma of how to maintain a fitness regime and avoid weight gain while away, particularly in an area or country we are not familiar with. Here are some tips to keeping you motivated and moving.

  • If you are a runner this is a no brainer. Pack your running shoes, some gear and go explore. If you are staying in a hotel, they may have walking routes you can use. If you are travelling alone and prefer not to run on your own in a strange city there may also be local clubs you can tag along with. You can contact a local running store who may have a list of clubs, or see if the Hash House Harriers has a chapter. They are a world-wide running club and welcome visitors.
  • Another way to explore while getting some exercise is to rent a bike. You can go a lot further and see a lot more. You can usually rent a helmet with the bike so you don’t have to worry about packing one.
  • Take a hike. If you are vacationing with family then a social way to exercise is to go for a hike/walk. Many cities now have walking tours and you can choose your distance. If you are in an area that has scenic trails then hiking is a great way to stay fit and burn calories. Pack a lunch and you can enjoy a great day out.
  • Many hotels have gyms/spas so if working out is important to you, then choose a hotel with fitness facilities. This can be a bonus particularly if it is hot outside. Most hotel gyms have cardio equipment and weights so you can get your workout done in an air-conditioned environment and then enjoy your vacation with a clear conscience.
  • Swim. If your hotel has a good size pool, swimming is a great all body exercise. Or find a recreation centre with a pool and swim lengths.
  • Pack your own equipment. It is so easy today to pack a few items in your case and not really take up a lot of space. Start with a Grid Foam Roller – at only 13” long and 5” in diameter it is light and hollow so you can fill it with almost anything. Start with resistance bands – a great substitute for weights, so you can keep up with your strength training, therapy ball – for massaging out tight spots, skipping rope, and a yoga strap for stretching hamstrings.
  • Exercising with your own body weight is simple and easy to do. A simple circuit could include jumping jacks, push-ups, lunges, burpees and the plank. These can be done on a beach, in a park or in a gym.
  • Stairs. Find some stairs and run up and down for 5, 10, 15 minutes. Your heart rate will get elevated so make sure you walk down the stairs to recover. You can also incorporate this into your run.
  • If you practice yoga, pack your mat and a DVD. Some hotels have DVD players or use your laptop. You can also download some videos beforehand on to a tablet.
  • Traveling can wreak havoc on our bodies – sitting too long on a plane, not getting enough sleep because of long flights or a major time change. So it is just as important to think about massage tools. The Stick for example is wonderful for massaging tight muscles from the neck down to the calves. A therapy ball, as mentioned above, you can lie on to sooth tight spots.
  • Just as important as maintaining an exercise regime is watching what you eat. Yes indulge a bit – that is what holidays are for, but try and make some healthy choices. Stay hydrated by drinking water (buy bottled if the local water is suspect) and try and incorporate fruit and vegetables in your meal choices. You can also pack some of your favourite energy bars to snack on.

These are just a few tips to help you stay fit and ward of those extra pounds away while you are away. There is nothing worse than coming home and finding you have lost a lot of fitness and gained excess weight. Ideally you should be able to get straight back into your routine within a few days, thanking yourself for keeping on track while you were away.

Quality not Quantity

Galloping-Goose-Trail-just-outside-Victoria-SM

How obsessive are you about your fitness routine? Is it the most important thing in your life and you would rather die than miss your scheduled run or workout? Or are you okay maintaining your fitness by “just” being active three or four days a week? For many, fitness is an obsession and when it reaches that level, it sometimes is no longer be enjoyable, so perhaps it is time to get off the treadmill and re-evaluate your lifestyle and goals.

We live in a competitive age and peer pressure can be intense. Group exercise, running clinics, and training rides are all there to motivate us and improve our fitness, which admittedly does have enormous benefits, but the environment can be competitive and before you know it you are signed up for a number of events, and you are broke – or even worse injured from over-training!

So it may be time to sit back and think – what do I really want to achieve and can I do that without breaking the bank balance? The answer is that of course you can. We are blessed with living in a place that means we can exercise year-round outside, and there are affordable activities and events you can do while still maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle.

For runners this is a no-brainer. If you are tired of training runs at a goal pace, then just go for a run with your dog and treat it as Fido’s run. If your run is near water and your dog likes to swim, stop and let him/her have a paddle. On a warm day your dog will appreciate it. If you don’t have a 6-year-old lab who loves to run and swim (sorry – have to mention my boy Cash) then find a friend, pick a nice trail and do it!

Finding new places to run can be adventurous. Again grab a two or four paw buddy and explore new areas and terrain. We have abundant trails in Victoria – if you like a challenge, Mount Doug or Thetis Lake are options, or the Galloping Goose beyond Langford is relatively flat and not that busy.

Another tip is to run by feel and not time. Leave that $200 GPS behind and enjoy the actual run itself, not the fact that you have to run 8km today at a 5:30 pace. If you really have to know how long you ran check your watch before you leave and then when you get back, or put the GPS in a pocket and resolve not to look at it while you’re out there.

If you really can’t go a few weeks without running a race, then run some of the low-key community events. The Vancouver Island Running Association (VIRA) put on a series of races from 5k – half marathon every winter/spring, or check out the MEC race series that runs year-long.

So you have been a five-day-a-week runner for ever, and now as you get older want to still run but afraid your fitness level will decrease. That isn’t the case if you cross-train. Substituting a run with a bike ride or a swim is an excellent way of maintaining your fitness. You will still get a good cardio workout without the excess strain on your body that too much running can cause. Cross-training is also a great way to help injury prevention.

The Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails are perfect for cycling and if you like to ride in a group look out for the number of non-competitive rides available this year. MEC’s Century Ride is popular, and this year they are offering two rides, in May (with a choice of a 50K and 100K ride) and October (60K and 100K). MEC’s philosophy is simple: “We want to be able to offer everyone easy access to events that otherwise people wouldn’t do,” says Caitlin Brown, MEC Event Coordinator. Their ‘meet-up’ rides and runs are a great no-fuss option and available to anyone who just want to drop-in. They also offer clinics for those that do need that extra motivation.

Many of us head to the pool when we get injured, but why wait for that dreadful moment? Depending on your weight and the intensity of your swim you can burn many calories, and you feel toned afterwards as you are using every muscle in your body. If you haven’t swum for a while, don’t dive in and do an hour straight off or you will feel very sore the next day. Just like any activity, build up gradually. Pool running is not just for when you’re injured either – it can be a great way to get a no-impact, low-stress, cardio workout.

As we head into the warmer weather this is the perfect time to think about your fitness regime particularly if you do feel you are doing too much, or just want a change. It really is all about quality of life and getting out and enjoying a healthy lifestyle which you can do without being obsessive about it.

Are you in the Trend for 2016?

fitbit

Have you heard of Fitbit or Strava? HIIT or Fusion classes? Well, according to experts in Canada and south of the border we are in for some fabulous, fitness fun this year as we endeavour to experiment with different activities and tackle new technology. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and Canadian Fitness Professionals Inc. (CanfitPro) have both released their top 10 fitness trends for 2016, and, although not dissimilar, they do differ. Let’s look at the comparison.

ACSM

  1. Wearable Technology. Fitness trackers and smart watches will be huge, according to ACSM. Fitbit, Garmin and the Apple watch will see a growth, particularly the Apple watch, which can do everything except start your car!
  2. Fitness Apps. There will be growing need for apps, not just for counting calories but nutrition and coaching and training plans. Strava is one of the latest apps that logs your run or bike ride and by sharing it with others, you can track each other.
  3. Personal Trainers Practicing Health and Wellness Coaching. Personal trainers will become a one-stop-shop for individuals who want the complete package – trainer and wellness coaching.
  4. Workplace Health and Wellness. A healthy employee is a happy one. Company gyms, perks such as gym membership, ergonomic aids such as stand up chairs, company-sponsored events – all will grow this year.
  5. Faith-based Fitness Program.  Exercise will become mainstream as churches, mosques and other faith-based communities come together and share health and fitness values.
  6. Functional Fitness. More specific classes and programs will emerge for different demographics. Youth camps and senior cardio classes will be part of the functional movement.
  7. Public – Private Fitness Partnerships. Equipment companies and clubs will see how they can work directly with the public, whether it is working with schools or in the community.
  8. Combined Group Fitness Classes. The trend will be to combine your favourite fitness classes giving you an aerobic and cardio workout in one. Boxing and Pilates (Piloxing) is already becoming popular.
  9. Group Personal Training. As an increased way of doing business, personal trainers will offer group training for group of two – five.
  10. Educational Fitness Workshops. In our hunt for knowledge about why we do a certain exercise, there will be chances to learn the techniques and concepts behind the workouts.

CanfitPro

  1. Functional Fitness. Number six on ACSM’s list is number one here, although the definition differs. Here it “involves exercising using multiple muscle groups versus one specific muscle group at a time.” Functional fitness programs include practical, balance-challenging movements that simulate activities like carrying groceries, unloading the car, getting up from a chair.
  2. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT workouts involve intense periods of exercise followed by durations of rest, often alternating cardio and weight bearing exercise. HIIT has grown exponentially over the last two-three years and is offered at most fitness clubs.
  3. Life/Wellness Coaching to Complement Fitness Training. Number three here concurs with the ACSM trend. Coaches provide expertise and support to help clients improve their health and lead a more balanced lifestyle. Trainer, nutritionist and coach all in one.
  4. Nutrition and Healthy Eating Programs.  Nutrition doesn’t appear anywhere in the ACSM trend. But those in health and fitness are becoming more aware of nutrition and how it relates to energy levels.
  5. Express Workouts. Once called circuit training – a fast, efficient 30 minute workout for those on a tight schedule.
  6. Older Adult Training. ACSM touch on this in their Functional Fitness trend – designing specialized programs for the older/senior population.
  7. Fusion-style Group Fitness. Number nine on the ACSM list, these classes combine different disciplines with the goal of developing strength, balance, agility and coordination from one exercise class.
  8. Personal Training. A stand-alone trend here whereas ACSM grouped it with life coaching. Trainers create customized fitness plans and offer advice for healthy eating, among other services.
  9. Working with Certified and Experienced Fitness Professionals. With so many fitness professionals out there, we want to research and find the best qualified professional.
  10. Body Weight Training. Using your own body weight to create resistance is a growing workout trend. TRX is an example of a very popular workout with movements such as lunges and push-ups.

ACSM and CanfitPro agree on four of the trends, although some definitions differ, with our American counterparts favouring the growing technology. But all of the predictions are interesting, and we are all bound to find some we can identify with and say ‘yes I will do that this year.’ So why not pick five of these trends and see if you can change up your training this year. Then you can call yourself a trend setter.

Get Inspired by Helping Yourself and Others

2hr run clinic July 4 Run

With the end of the year drawing to a close and the dawn of a new one just around the corner, we often reflect on what we have achieved and start setting goals for the New Year. So let’s look at ways we can inspire ourselves by setting goals, but also see how by inspiring others, we fulfill a selfless need that is in all of us – a need to help and motivate.

Firstly, think of someone who has inspired you. Many of us have heroes – these are individuals who motivate us by what they are achieving. We are in awe of them and they inspire us to want to make changes to our fitness routine whether it’s training for your first marathon, taking up a new sport, or just simply getting off the couch. By them setting an example we are motivated to follow suit. You may have a friend or mentor who inspires you – you work out together or join a run clinic with a goal in mind. Perhaps you have a personal trainer or coach who sets goals and keeps you on track.  Without that training schedule you know you wouldn’t success and achieve the results you want.  Once you have identified your inspiring individual, write down the reasons why that person is so inspiring and what you can learn from them. Can you turn this into an experience you can share or inspire others? Of course you can.

You have noticed your friend is in a rut with their training, or they have lost interest in their sport for whatever reason. Take him/her under your wing and motivate and encourage. Suggest a change up in routine, try a new fitness class, start a new sport, or switch a run day with a bike ride. Join them and lead by example. Make it a project. If you have been running in training clinics for a while and feel you want to do more, then volunteer to be a run leader. Use your knowledge and enthusiasm and pass on to others and help them reach their goals. You may have to put your personal goals on hold, but the satisfaction of seeing others achieve theirs is immense, particularly knowing that you had a hand in their success.

Then of course you can inspire yourself. Think of your achievements and goals over the last year. Were they reasonable, too lofty or achievable? Remember the SMART principle – Simple, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. All goals should be based on this. Get inspiration from what you did achieve, no matter how small, and build on it. Write down what you want to achieve next year. Is there an event that you have always wanted to do but it has been out of your reach? Tell yourself that this is the year to do it. Be decisive. Share your goals with others and they will feed off your enthusiasm (and they may even train with you). Staying motivated can often be a difficult task so use some tools to help you. If you want to qualify for the Boston Marathon watch some inspirational running videos like the ‘Spirit of the Marathon,’ or read inspiring stories (George Sheehan is a particular favourite). Find some inspirational quotes or develop your own mantra. Along the way, reward yourself if you have accomplished a stage or achieved a target you set yourself, as part of your goal.

So make 2016 a year you can inspire others while inspiring yourself to achieve personal goals. Then this time next year you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

 

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!