Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Workout Wednesdays - The Importance of Proper Posture

Proper posture - not a specific workout but something that is rarely discussed as an aspect of working out.  Because I teach mainly TRX classes, proper posture is key to ensuring a safe and effective workout, but unless we are reminded of it many people, myself included spend a good part of our day in a hunched position.

One of the because culprits in causing poor posture for most of us is an overly tight chest and a weak over stretched upper back.  It is important to stretch our chest and strengthen our upper back muscles, specifically the lower traps, lats and rhomboids.  The upper back muscles work together to pull the shoulders open and create the openness through the chest that makes everything - including breathing easier.

Without getting into a specific workout, right now your can reset your posture.  Come one try it with me.  Just sit up a little straighter because you've probably started slouching.  Open up the chest, pretend you're sliding your shoulder blades into a pair of pockets and pull the chest outward and upward.  Great you've reset your posture.  Now engage your core slightly.  Perfect.

We need to do this sort of adjustment with our bodies several times throughout the day to off set the closed in habit we tend to form with our chest.  Our lifestyles through activities such as computer work, driving and time on our phones lead to the stooped position that ultimately cause shoulder and neck tension and a whole other array of aches and pains we may deal with on a daily basis.

One really quick way beyond the walk through I gave you a few paragraphs back is from a standing position and can be done at any point throughout the day. To begin, take your palms from facing inward (toward you thighs) and open them outward.  The outward opening rotates the arms through their nature range of motion and engages the shoulder blades instantly reseting your posture.  If you do this reset each time you walk into a certain room and through a doorway, you will reset your posture and may notice that you stay in an engaged position throughout the day.   

Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Importance of Remaining Positive

I am wrapping up a wonderful weekend.  Friday I had two amazing conversations about life direction and intentions with two amazing people.  My own personal workouts are progressing well and I can see the gains I've made and I received positive feedback from my students about my classes.  To top off the whole weekend, I just watched my daughter sing and play guitar at a recital and totally rock it!

Oh yeah - and one other goal follow up.... my fiction piece was published!!  Whoot whoot!!  Check out the link here.

This all sounds pretty wonderful doesn't it?  Life is great.

But guess what - the writing almost didn't happen.  Remember in November when I said I was submitting two pieces - fiction and non-fiction.  Well, I am assuming by now my non-fiction piece has been rejected.  And my fiction piece came back with a very gracious request to re-write.

I was pretty discouraged when that happened.  But I knew that being published was something I really wanted.  And the feedback I got from the editor who published my piece provided me with some very solid recommendations that in the end improved my original submission.  Her suggestions also have resonated with me in relation to other projects I am working on.

It was pretty easy to feel discouraged with a double rejection because I wanted the publishing process to be easy.  But two things have helped me through this process.  First is the quote - Anything worthwhile is never easy.  Second - writers work really hard to be published.  There are stories are all over the place about masterpieces that received multiple rejections before someone agreed to publish them.

This situation has cause be me to think - how often could our outlook in a certain situation be different if we saw that rejection or what we view as a rejection as an opportunity to be better.  That is my challenge this week.  Look for places in my life that feel like they aren't working and see what I can do to make it better.  

We are constantly presented with situations that don't seem to be working even if it is something we think we really want.  What if the rejection was just a challenge testing our commitment?  What if that challenge was in place to make our goal of whatever we were aiming for the be that much better?  What if we were being challenged from being just ok to pretty amazing.

Viewing your rejection, setback or failure in that light suddenly doesn't make it seem so bad.  The non-fiction piece that I submitted was a rewrite of my post about jumping off the bridge.  Out of all of the posts I have here, that piece is one that people comment to me personally the most.  The story is good, the editors wanted better writing.

The bottom line is to not give into the negative thoughts that happen when our lives don't look the way we thought they would.  Being inspired to try new things, spending time with people who you can connect with and share ideas with those are ways to stay in the positive frame of mind.  But ultimately you are the one who needs to choose which thought pattern you are going to let dominate. 

Do you ever notice when you start to view things in a more positive light, all of a sudden the disappointments don't seem that bad?  By refocussing how you view the situation can make all of the difference in learning the lesson from you rejection.  This line of thinking can take a story and improve it or take a bad race and change your approach to training.  Our minds are incredibly powerful tools that affect how we perceive our world.  It is up to you how to use it.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Fun Food Friday - Peanut Butter & Jam Smoothie

I know its winter and smoothies might be the opposite of what you want to start off your day.  But lately I've been craving a smoothie in the morning.  There is something in having a glass full of healthy ingredients that taste great to start off your day.  Blending everything together also makes it easy for your body to digest with means an increased ability to absorb nutrients from the food you're eating.

Typically I add protein powder to my smoothies, but it is also nice to get your protein from less processed food sources somedays.  The hemp heart provide omega 3's and a complete protein and you get an added protein boost from the greek yogurt.  I also added a couple of dates to my smoothie for added sweetness.  But dates are a source of fibre and magnesium which is used by your body to assist in muscle relaxation and supports the immune system.

PB & J Smoothie

Prep Time: 5 minutes
(2 smoothies)
  • 3 cups spinach
  • 1 cup frozen mixed fruit
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup hemp hearts
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 cup (or more if needed) water
  • 1-2 dates (optional)

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth adding more water if needed.
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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Workout Wednesday - Back to Basics!

Having gone through my favourite top 10 TRX moves over the past couple of months I thought I'd share with you two super simple weight workout you can do either at home or the gym.  As I mentioned in my last post, running is off my schedule for the next little bit and I was focusing on weight lifting and hiking and walking.  

Below are two really quick but effective workouts I did during my first two weeks of weight lifting.  These workouts target the entire body and are a good series of exercises to preform  when beginning a weight program or as part of a reset.  

If you work out at a gym, some of the moves can be modified for a universal machine.  If you're at home all you require are some dumbbells that are at a weight that is challenging to you but the moves are still completed in proper form.

I completed these two workouts on Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday alternating each workout.  But you can choose which days work best for you - just make sure you have at least one rest day in between.  Week 1 each complete each set 3 times and during week 2 increase the sets to 4.

Workout #1

Squats - 30 reps
Dumbbell wood chop - 10 per side
Walking lunge with shoulder press - 10 per side
Bent over row - 10 reps
Bicep curls - 10 reps

Workout #2

Pushups - 10 reps
Overhead tricep extension - 10 per side
Lat pull downs - 10 reps
Sumo squat - 10 reps
Squat with feet closer than hip width - 10 reps
Boss ball squat, round side up - 10 reps
Flutter kick - 15 per side

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Making a Setback Work for You

We all experience little events in our lives that take us off our intended course and steer us in a different direction.  Usually along the way if we aren't frustrated with the setback we learn a lesson or two.  But the key is being open to learning the lesson.

Over the past month I have experienced a significant setback for me.  I had been training regularly with my running schedule similar to my pattern for the past five years.  I was running five days a week with tempo and hill work incorporated.  To cross train I was combining plyometrics and strength training.  It was an intense training schedule but it had worked for me in the past.  I was even looking to scheduling training for some longer runs and was considering signing up for Around the Bay at the end of March.

That is until December 23rd.  Early that morning I was having coffee with my husband.  The weather was mild and I was planning on heading outside for a run.  As I told him about my plan I noticed my Achilles tendon was a little sore.  Running my hand up the tendon I felt a lot of inflammation and a nodule on the tendon.  Not good news for me.

Because of the holidays I wasn't able to see my osteopath or regular physiotherapist.  In fact I couldn't see anyone for a week.  So I rested my leg, iced it.  When it felt better I stretched the calf and massaged the tendon.  I've been in physio for four weeks and have been getting ultrasound to break up the scar tissue.  I'm also not supposed to run or do any high impact exercises for at least four more weeks.

In the past ten years and my entire time as a personal trainer, I have never not included running in my own personal workouts.  But I realized that this was an indication from my body that I needed to change things.  What worked for me five years ago from a fitness perspective wasn't working now.  In fact, I was exercising regularly at a high intensity and not seeing any results.

I decided to wipe the slate clean and start with the basics.  For the first week I was rehabbing my leg I did yoga daily focusing on hip and shoulder openers and stretching my calf.  While I was working with my physiotherapist she pointed out that my left side was much weaker than my right.  So I've been strengthening my left hip, specifically the gluteus medius.  

Finally, I've gone back to basic strength training and walking.  Plain old walking either outside (preferably) or when necessary on the treadmill.  Over the past four weeks of this routine I am actually noticing huge changes in my overall strength and I am starting to notice muscle definition.

These are the benefits, but it took a great deal of mental effort to look at my problem in that manner.   Running has so many benefits for me far beyond physical.  But no run in the world is worth a ruptured tendon.  So what is more important is that I actually listen to the message from my body and make changes.  

In our lives we get these little messages all of the time.  This wasn't the first time my Achilles tendon gave me issue but it was the first time I actually listened.  How many of us have these little hints or messages that crop up for us and how many times do we stop and change course?  A setback may feel like a major disappointment.  Yes I am sad that at least for now I won't be able to do any running let alone long distance running in the near future.  But I am grateful that I am working toward strengthening my body and I have a chance to try new and different workouts.

Slowing down isn't a bad thing, in fact you often see and experience more in each moment when you take your time to look around.  

I've read recently that optimists don't necessarily live longer than pessimists but I would certainly argue the quality of their lives is much greater.  The choice to view a setback as a beginning or an end is entirely up to you.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Fun Food Friday - Raspberry Oat Bars

This week my kids have been snacking like crazy and were looking for something sweet.  I didn't have time to bake an entire batch of cookies so I thought I'd try a variation on granola bars.  I do on occasion by granola bars for my kids - they are convenient and travel well but this week I wanted to know exactly what was in the food we were eating.  

As a result, I came up with these bars.  They disappeared so quickly, I've made them three times this week.  The fun part of this recipe is that you can change it up to whatever kind of  bar you like.   Types of jam can be intermixed for your favourite  or the type of berries have on hand.  Or you could eliminate the jam and add dried fruit, nuts or chocolate chips - the possibilities are endless!  I also decided to make chia seed jam but that is optional.  Ready made jam works just as well.

So now the health benefits - berries are full of antioxidants.  Raspberries contain Vitamin C,  quercetin and gallic acid that help fight against cancer, heart and circulatory disease.  In addition to having anti-inflammatory properties.  Oats are a fantastic source of soluble fibre and has been linked to good heart health.

Raspberry Oat Bars

by Denise Boyd Dunlop
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 18-20 minutes
Ingredients (12 bars)
    For Raspberry Jam
    • 1 cup frozen raspberries thawed
    • 1/3 cup maple syrup
    • 1/4 cup chia seeds
    For the Bars
    • 3 cups oatmeal
    • 1/2 cup spelt flour or flour of your choice
    • 1/2 cup coconut oil melted or butter softened
    • 1/2 cup maple syrup
    • 1 egg
    • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

    For Raspberry Jam

    Mash raspberries in a small bowl with a fork. Add maple syrup. Stir in chia seeds and set aside allowing to thicken.

    For the Bars

    Beat coconut oil or butter with egg and maple syrup until smooth. Stir in dry ingredients. Add 1-2 tablespoons milk of your choice if needed.

    Spread 2/3 of mixture onto parchment lined 9x13in pan. Evenly spread jam over oat mixture. Crumble remaining mixture over the first two layers - jam will not be completely covered.

    Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes. Remove parchment paper from pan and slice into bars using a pizza slicer. Cool on wire rack.
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    Wednesday, 13 January 2016

    Workout Wednesday - TRX Curl Ups

    The final exercise of my top 10 TRX moves is the TRX curl up.  This is similar to a C-sit up in pilates but your feet are in the straps.  By keeping your legs straight and elevated, you challenge yourself because you aren't able to rely on your hip flexors to help you sit up.

    The principle behind this move is to focus on using your abdominal muscles to lift you up off of your mat by focusing on one vertebrae lifting at a time.  While the lift is challenging additional work - and benefits can be achieved on the return to the mat if you focus on control your momentum and the speed you move.

    So here are the steps to a TRX Curl up:

    1. Begin with your straps set to mid-calf length.
    2. Lying face up on your mat place your heels in the straps.  Legs should be fully extended with a natural bend at the knee.
    3. Engage your abdominal muscles and begin curling yourself up off of the mat slowly -one vertebrae at a time until you are in a full sitting position.
    4. Return to the mat in using the same rate of speed and thinking slow and controlled movements.
    5. If this movement is difficult to complete in a smooth fluid movement or you find yourself 'stuck' at a certain point (typically just below the level of the shoulder blades) a yoga strap or band can be placed around your feet and held in your hands to provide assistance with this move.  Additionally you can removed your feet from the TRX straps and work to increase your abdominal strength with your feet on the floor.
    6. To make this move more challenging extend your arms over your head while lying on the mat and focus on lifting up with the arms rotating through the should and extending your arms in front of you in the sitting position.