April 30, 2009
April 28, 2009
The squat is a great exercise for toning, strengthening and building muscle in the lower body.
-Feet hip width apart
-Weight on heels
-Pelvis tilted forward (so your bum is sticking out)
-Squat until thighs are parallel to the floor
-Keep knees behind toes, not over
-Ball squat. Place a stability ball behind your low back, up against the wall.
-Chair Squat. Place a chair behind and try to squat down on it. This will help to develop depth to your squat.
Practicing and perfecting the basic squat, builds strength for more fun and complex squat variations.
April 27, 2009
April 25, 2009
I'll be honest, when I first heard about getting fit on a trampoline I probably laughed. It sounds ridiculous. I mean, jumping up and down, come on!
However, I believe this is a case of don't knock it, til you try it.
Benefits of Jumping on a Trampoline
-Like jump rope, jumping quickly raises the heart rate and burns calories. The trampoline offers more than the rope because there is almost no impact. This makes jumping easier on the hips and knees.
-Jumping tones the legs and glutes by gentle body weight resistance. This builds long toned muscles and strengthens joints and ligaments without too much impact, pressure or bulking up.
-While you jump, you have to keep your balance. This recruits the core muscles for an ab workout. Jump and twist for a greater emphasis on the abdominal region.
-The trampoline is used to rehabilitate lower body injuries in physiotherapy clinics. The gentle strength building is great for after surgery or injury. (Just double check with your doctor/physiotherapist before trying it out, okay?)
-It's fun. Oh my is it ever fun!
I don't think the trampoline can be a primary method of losing weight, building muscle and staying fit. I can't imagine being on one for more than 10 minutes at a time. *gets dizzy* However, it IS an amazing supplemental tool. For less than $50 for a new one (and even less used!) it's a great piece of home equipment to try.
April 23, 2009
I just read this article over at Daily Science. The results of the study is shocking! I hope they research it more in the future, to get to the bottom of whether or not taking the pill prevents women from building muscle.
The study was preformed by the Department of Health and Kinesiology at the University of Texas, and the Human Energy Research Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. Their findings showed that women who did not oral contraceptives, gained a whopping 60% more muscle over their OC taking counterparts, over the course of the ten week study.
They will have to look in to this more but if you're a woman who has difficulty achieving the sexy toned and defined look, it could be your birth control to blame.
April 21, 2009
Proper exercise technique is a skill that is not easily learned. It's almost impossible to see the subtleties of certain exercises in magazines or online. Even after being taught by a personal trainer or other skilled professional, it takes practice to nail the correct form.
Exercise form is important for two main reasons:
1. Working the Correct Muscle
It still amazes me (years later) that a slight change in an angle or grip can cause different muscles to be worked or in some cases, put more pressure than necessary on certain joints. Take the bench press as an example. The correct way to press up the barbell or free weights is with straight, steady wrists. The second you are "pushing with your wrists" (top of the hand being parallel to the floor instead of straight up)you are not working your chest and instead, putting a lot of pressure on the wrists, a couple hundred pounds in some cases.
Similarly, if you don't give your pecs a quick flex and pull your shoulder blades together, the lifting will be focused more in the triceps, rather than the chest, the exercise to meant to target.
2. Preventing Injuries
Similar to my last point but worse, the wrong technique can not only shift focus on to different muscle groups but actually do more harm than good. Take the shoulder press, it's a very simple exercise but with one common technique mistake. Before the exerciser presses the weights above his/her head it's crucial to pull the shoulder blades back and together so that when the weights are lifted, they are raised right above the head instead of out in front of the body. This mistake can cause shoulder impingement's, stiffness and chronic discomfort.
An exercise like the squat can be fantastic for building (and even rebuilding) knee strength but the second those knees go over the toes, you put yourself at risk for knee injury.
With crunches, if you don't learn body awareness and techniques to activate your abs, you will be doing crunches with your upper body, and not hitting the abdominal region at all!
As you can see, there is more to exercise form and technique than meets the eye. If you are serious about training for the long term I would recommend hiring a personal trainer to start you off on the right foot. A trainer will teach you proper form to prevent injuries, increase result progression and to keep you exercising for years to come.
April 20, 2009
Albert Einstein, who discovered that a tiny amount of mass is equal to a huge amount of energy, which explains why, as Einstein himself so eloquently put it in a famous 1939 speech to the Physics Department at Princeton, "You have to exercise for a week to work off the thigh fat from a single Snickers."
April 18, 2009
April 17, 2009
Green beans (or string beans) are a delicious and healthy legume. They were my favourite as a kid, because it was fun to dissect them. Aside from playing with my food, I also happen to really like the taste, and the fact that they are incredibly versatile. They can be added to any dish, to add colour to meals and a ton of healthy benefits.
Nutritional Benefits of Green Beans
-Low in fat
-Excellent source of fiber
-Good source of protein
-Contains folic acid
-Provide significant amounts of iron, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B6 and potassium
-Lowers bad cholesterol
-Prevents blood sugar from rising too rapidly after a meal
-Very heart healthy
Green beans are delicious as a side, in casseroles, soups, stir fries, salads and much more. They are inexpensive and readily available at any grocery store.
Eat Your Veggies!
April 16, 2009
It's a nice week here in Toronto. I'm always saying that you don't need a gym to get in to great shape. Here is an outdoor workout consisting of all the major components of fitness; cardiovascular, resistance and flexibility training.
Equipment- A pair of lifting gloves, to prevent callouses and a comfortable pair of shoes. Otherwise, nothing!
Time- This workout takes approximately 1 hour.
The Outdoor Workout
Warm Up-5 minutes
Start by walking at a comfortable pace. Gradually increase your speed for 5 minutes. By the time you are in to the 6th minute of the program you should be walking (or jogging) at a pace that challenges you.
The cardio can be performed in different ways to suit your tastes and abilities. You can either :
a) Walk intervals. Walk 3 minutes at difficult pace and then 2 minutes at speed that will allow recovery.
b)Jog or run. You could do intervals, sprints or steady state.
Push up- until you can't do anymore x2
Pull Up- These can be done at a playground or on a study tree. If you can't do pull ups, just hold yourself in the pull up position for as long as you can. x2
Bench Step Ups- Use a picnic bench or any other step with some height, to do step ups. Place one foot on the step, and step up with the weight of your body, in your heel. Do 15 on one side and then switch to the other.
Pike Push Up- This is like a push up but by putting your butt in the air, and pointing the top of your head toward the floor, you are working your shoulders instead of your chest. x2 sets
Squats- Stand with your back to a bench (just in case you fall) and squat down by keeping your weight on your heels, and your knees over your toes. 15 x 2.
Chin Ups- Same as the pull up but with your palms facing up, instead of down. This will target the biceps whereas the pull ups puts more of a focus on the back. x 2
Lunges- 15 on each side x 2
Dips of the bench- 15 x 2
Hanging knee raises- Off the playground or tree. Try for 10 in front and 10 to each side.
Cardio Part 2 15 minutes
Head back home. If you did intervals the first time, do a steady walk home and vice versa.
Stretch out your whole body. Hold each stretch for 10-15 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.
April 15, 2009
This article is really interesting. It focuses on tests performed by a team of researchers, to determine the baseline health of a 66 year old climber, Dawes Eddy. Mr. Eddy is currently embarking on a two month climb up Mount Everest, where his body will undergo physiological changes as he ascends to some of the higheest altitudes, known to humankind.
It's simply amazing how healthy and fit Dawes is. Not to mention it's extremely fascinating, to learn about the effects of an extreme climb on the body. The lungs, heart and brain undergo surprising changes, when such high altitudes are reached.
Did you know that 92% of climbers ascending over 18000 feet experience frontal lobe injuries and atrophy to the outer layers of the brain?
If you are as in to this article as I am, then definitely check out Mountain Guides for a play by play journal on Dawes Eddy, and the rest of the team, on their incredible journey up Everest.
Go Dawes Eddy!
April 14, 2009
I hope everybody out there celebrating, had an amazing Easter. I sure did! Easter dinner is always healthy with loads of vegetables, fruit and cheese. The bittersweet part is all of the chocolate.
Even if you don't have kids you may find yourself stocked to the brim with the holiday's traditional sweet gift. Of course, it's okay to indulge on Easter, but what do you do in the weeks to come?
1. Eat it slowly and not everyday. Pace your chocolatey snacks and try to at least, skip a day inbetween sampling the various kinds of sweets.
2. Give it away. If you have guests, offer them some. If you are going to see a friend, bring some over for their kids. It's okay to regift chocolate. Nobody will complain, so share the sweetness!
3. Whatever you do, don't eat it all in one sitting. If you do, expect to wake up two months later, from a sugar induced coma with an awful headache. No, this won't actually happen but a lot of chocolate is A LOT of sugar and it's really not good for you!
Enjoy your chocolate, in moderation!
April 13, 2009
April 12, 2009
If you have ever known someone with a back problem, they will tell you it's the most painful, debilitating injury there is. When back trouble turns in to chronic pain, it's very hard to treat. People will try numerous treatments from massage, acupuncture to chiropractic clinics and for the most part, their pain is not relieved permanently.
The best way to keep your back healthy is by taking care of your body and preventing pain before it starts.
Here are FIVE simple suggestions to keep your back healthy:
-Always sit with good posture. Don't hunch or lean forward. If it helps you to sit up straight, use a stability ball to watch TV or use the computer.
-Strength train. Focus on core exercises. Performing abdominal and low back exercises will make the muscles supporting your spine strong.
-Stretch and practice yoga. Keep your body limber and tension free.
-Don't sleep on your stomach. This position places a lot of pressure on the spine.
-Lift with your legs, not your back.
It's the little things that make a big difference, and consequently, it's the little things that will hurt your back if you don't follow these basic suggestions. Like bending over or reaching across a table. Keep a healthy lower back and enjoy a comfortable and pain free lifestyle.
April 11, 2009
If there was ever one piece of weight loss advice that should be practiced, it's to not drink calories.
When you think about it, the daily recommend calorie intake, while it seems like a lot, doesn't have that much room outside of necessary meals to work with.
If you have ever counted your calorie consumption in a day, you know it doesn't take long for them to add up. To lose weight, you need to eat 500 calories less than your body burns a day. If you eat (or drink) more than you burn, you will gain weight.
Even juice, while it's considered healthy, is more calories and less nutrition than eating the actual fruit itself. On the other hand a drink like the grande white hot chocolate at Starbucks, contains a whopping 490 calories, 19 grams of fat and over 60 grams of sugar! With a drink like that, you could be eating at McDonald's!
If you switch to solely water and tea and eat your calories instead of drinking them, you will find you have more room for the occasional treat or second helping.
April 10, 2009
Poor potatoes, they have such a bad reputation. I always hear people saying how they are high in calories and starch. Not to mention all of the junk food that is made from them like french fries and potato chips.
April 9, 2009
April 8, 2009
I just read an article over at Daily Science. In a study released by the Journal of applied physiology, they found that a three month strengthening program, did not increase muscle mass for women in their 80's.
Studies from the past, have shown that weight training can increase muscle size by up to 5%, for women in their 70's.
April 7, 2009
During long stays in space of up to six months, astronauts lose around 15% of their muscle mass and around 20-30% of their muscle's performance. This is significant damage. It's like having the muscle mass of 20 year old going in to space, and coming back with the mass of someone in their 80's.
April 6, 2009
"Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like muscles of the body."
-Lynn Jennings, world champion runner
"Desire is the most important factor in the success of any athlete."
"I learned that the only way you are going to get anywhere in life is to work hard at it. Whether you're a musician, a writer, an athlete or a businessman, there is no getting around it. If you do, you'll win - if you don't, you won't."
"Find something that you're really interested in doing in your life. Pursue it, set goals and commit yourself to excellence. Do the best you can."
-Chris Evert, tennis champion and winner of 18 Grand Slam titles
"An athlete gains so much knowledge by just participating in a sport. Focus, discipline, hard work, goal setting and, of course, the thrill of finally achieving your goals. These are all lessons in life."
-Kristi Yamaguchi, world champion figure skater
April 5, 2009
Stretching is more beneficial than just for making sure your muscles don't feel sore after a workout. Stretching feels great. It prevents injuries and cures tension.
Regular Stretching will:
-Aid the development of good looking muscles. Muscle building and toning comes not only from contracting the muscle, but stretching it as well.
-Ease stress. A quick stretch once an hour or a long stretch (like yoga) once a week helps relieve mental and physical tension.
-Correct posture. Tight muscles will cause you to slouch and move unnaturally. Releasing muscular tension allows the muscles to open up for free, limber movement of the body.
-Help you to feel limber. Stretching will put a spring in your step and make you feel more lively, younger and more energetic.
Try getting in to a stretching habit by adding a stretch here and there in to your daily routine. You will feel great in only a few days and this should be encouraging enough to try longer stretch sessions and to remember to stretch after a workout.
Stretch For Health And Wellness!
April 4, 2009
It's the weekend and if you need something to do, try one of these fun leisure activities that will keep you active but also satisfy the need for some weekend R&R. If you don't live in Toronto, just apply these suggestions to your hometown and have a great time!
Active Days in Toronto Can Include:
1. Walking to the beaches in East York
If you get on the subway and get off at Coxwell or Woodbine a brisk walk can get you to the lake in 25-30 minutes. At the beach you can play Frisbee, walk the boardwalk or even bring your Rollerblades for additional activity. The beaches is loaded with cafes and patio restaurants to grab some lunch or refreshments. If you're tired out by the end of the visit you can take the bus back, or walk back to the subway. The way back is all uphill so be prepared for challenging glutes and heart workout.
2. Take the ferry to the Toronto Islands
The Toronto Islands are unique and beautiful. It's a car-free zone so feel free to bring you bike to get around. There is much to do while you visit for the day. Try walking around the entire island, it takes just over an hour. Explore the residential side, filled with tiny, bohemian houses and cottage like dwellings surrounded by trees. Or you can go to the other end to check out Hanlon's point, complete with a nude beach, although it may be a little too cold for that at the moment! Of course Centreville, the amusement park is great if you have kids or need to grab something to eat. If you have a Frisbee don't forget to bring it along to try out one of the Frolf courses.
3. Shopping in the downtown core
Toronto's downtown core is big enough to get in a full day of walking and see a lot of different neighbourhoods. Start at Dundas Square. Take a look through the Eaton Centre and along the shops of Yonge Street. From there head west on Dundas or College until you hit Chinatown for some great deals and unique imports. Kensington Market is close by and it's filled with vintage shops, vegan restaurants and great alleyways to explore and photograph. From there head south on Spadina until you hit Queen Street. There you will find boutique shopping, lots of restaurants and some brand name favourites. Travelling east on Queen will get you back to the Eaton Centre. This makes a great day of leisure and exercise. Your feet will hurt so good!
Any city if fantastic for exploring and getting fit in. Use what you know of your own home to make different routes while at the same time visiting landmarks, shopping centres and beautiful sites to admire or photograph. Fitness doesn't have to mean sticking yourself in a gym or basement all of the time. Get out and enjoy yourself, it's spring!
April 3, 2009
The first time I tried wheatgrass juice was about 7 or 8 years ago. I thought it would taste like the green juice you can buy in health food stores made up from different sweet juices. I was in for a surprise. Bleh! It really tasted like....Grass.
April 2, 2009
I've been riding my new bike around Toronto for a few weeks now and even though I had been exercising consistently throughout the winter, the new bike routine is quite a lot of additional exercise on top of my already challenging morning sessions.
The thing is, my eating habits remained the same after starting my daily rides and by the end of the second week I was feeling the classic symptoms of over training such as fatigue, muscle soreness, headaches and crankiness. Fortunately I was able to identify what I was feeling right away and make the adjustments necessary to my diet.
It just goes to show that burning an additional 500 calories a day can really take its toll on your body if the food you are eating isn't enough to fuel your activities. The first thing I added was more water and carbohydrates, for hydration and energy before a bike ride. Then for dinner, more protein to repair my muscles.
These small and almost effortless changes made a huge difference in only a few days.
With the spring here and summer on its way, we are getting out more and being active. If you plan on adding regular, vigorous exercise to your routine, remember to change your meal plans to compliment your activities.