Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Self-Care...Caring for everybody else? Who's caring for you?

“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.” – Jean Shinoda Bolen

So essential to life balance and our overall health, self-care fuels our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Without self-care, our lives can feel harried, stressed and out of control. However, we often put our own needs on the back burner, feeling a sense of guilt if we carve out time for ourselves. If you are feeling low energy, stressed or that you’re lacking balance in some areas of your life, learn how you can develop a regular self-care practice.  Learn how to make time for you in your busy life and why self care is one of the most important steps to better health.

Self care can be defined as giving yourself “permission” to do what your body needs. We receive signals from our body telling us to slow down or take a nap or take time for that yoga class, however in the crux of the decision, we often ignore our bodies’ signals and choose to “forge ahead, ” to keep “doing.”  So, often we choose “busyness” or productivity in lieu of taking a walk in the woods. Self care is about taking care of the most important person in your life—you! Self care can only be provided for you, by you.

We live in an age where productivity is the new normal.  From the time we wake up, we are in a rush; we rush to get kids ready for school, rush to our jobs or home to do housework and errands and then it’s homework, dinner, dishes, bath and bed. For many of us, life has become a treadmill that we can’t slow down or get off of.  However, this state of always “doing” versus “being” is not good for our health. It can make us feel worn out, stressed and run down. This is especially true for women, who are notorious for putting others first and themselves last, for always nurturing others, but never themselves. Often sacrificing their own needs, many women develop a “martyr” syndrome, without even realizing it, which can create stress, resentment and unhappiness.

Self-care is especially important not only for your physical and mental health but also for your sense of self-esteem. If you take care of yourself, you are conveying to others that your needs are important, too. It reminds our loved ones; our husbands, wives, children and co-workers that you value yourself and they need to respect that. This is not being selfish. It is as essential as breathing. Think of the analogy of an airplane emergency. We all know that if we are presented with an emergency on a flight and the oxygen mask falls down, the first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Only when we first seek to help ourselves can we effectively give the best of ourselves to others. In fact, caring for yourself is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. It is also often one of the easiest things to forget.

Today stress has become one of the greatest risk factors to poor health. According to Statistics Canada, stress carries several negative health consequences, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, as well as immune and circulatory complications. Exposure to stress can also contribute to behaviours such as smoking, over-consumption of alcohol, and less-healthy eating habits. Statistics Canada reports that in 2013, 23.0% (6.6 million) of Canadians aged 15 and older reported that most days were ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely stressful’. Without a routine of self care, we are at risk for disease and unhealthy behaviours, so from this perspective, self care becomes an essential path to improving your health.  

We need to be reminded how to create a practice of self-care, how to slow down that treadmill, because it’s in our own power to do so. As a yoga instructor, I often help to teach my participants to give themselves permission to be present during their practice, to let go of their “to do” lists and allow themselves this sacred time for themselves only. This gives them a chance to center, to become more mindful, like pressing a reset button during their day. Instead of mindlessly plodding through their day, I ask them to set an intention of what they would like to see manifested in their day. This is more a spiritual “to do” list, inviting more connection, more presence, or possibly more kindness into their day.

Yoga is only one example of inviting self-care into your life. If yoga isn’t for you, think instead about what fuels your soul; what makes you feel refreshed, energized, or soothed. Take time to identify your own needs and start taking steps towards meeting them. What are some activities that nurture you? What is your definition of self care?  Your definition of self-care should be letting yourself do whatever you want to do. That may be taking time during your day to meditate, to get a massage, to get more sleep or to eat more regular meals. Self care is about taking proper care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.

Self-care can have many manifestations. The good news is there is no right answer as to what self-care looks like. It can take the simple form of a good night's sleep on a regular basis, making sure to eat healthy foods, exercising regularly, meditating, or taking time to relax and see friends. While these examples of self-care may seem obvious, they're actually essential elements of feeling happy, productive and fulfilled at work and at home. 

Think of your needs as encompassing three important areas of your life; your mind, body and spirit. All three components of your life need equal nurturing. Your physical body needs healthy food, sleep and exercise; your mind needs permission to take a pause from a demanding work or family life and needs to be engaged in learning; your spirit needs to be refreshed and renewed, by, say walking in the woods or writing in your journal. When developing your own self care routine, remember to balance out activities for all three of these areas of your life.

Establishing a self-care routine is such an important tool in creating healthy boundaries and developing a sense of balance, even in the face of a challenging work or demanding family environment. Start by introducing 10-15 minutes per day of an activity that nurtures you and once a week, commit to an hour of self care time. Start listening to those cues to slow down or take a nap, instead of tuning them out as you may have been accustomed to doing. Self care only works when you listen to your body, and do what you want without resistance. Like anything, with practice you will be better positioned to hear the voice that is begging for some “me” time and more likely to agree that you are very much worth it. Care enough about yourself to make room for what nourishes you and you will invite better health, happiness and joy into your life.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The New Technofit Trend: Where Fashion Meets Fitness

This season’s must-have accessory is not a pair of skinny jeans or a Tiffany necklace, but a simple plastic bracelet. Have you noticed your friends sporting the latest FitBit, Jawbone or Nike Fuel Band, and wondered what it does and if it’s right for you? Tiffany Moffatt reveals the benefits of this latest fitness trend.

If you’re looking for a way to get motivated to exercise, a wearable device is a fashion and fitness must-have! According to a study by Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, participants who tracked their activity wearing a pedometer took an additional 1,500 steps per day, while researchers at Indiana University found people who wore a pedometer daily walked 16% more than they did prior to the study and lost an average of 2.5 pounds.
The role of technology in promoting physical activity and changing exercise behaviour is not new: heart rate monitors and pedometers have been motivating us to exercise for several years. Today, however, technology is taking a front seat in the fitness industry in helping to promote healthy living, especially with new and increasingly popular ‘wearable’ devices. The functions and options in wearable devices that allow you to track daily steps, calories burned, heart rate and sleep are enough to get the most rooted couch potato moving!

What’s right for you?

Thanks to new leading edge technology, wearable devices can wirelessly sync to your mobile phone, track hours and quality of sleep and even alert you when you’re being lazy! Some of the forerunners in the wearable market include the FitBit Flex or Charge, Apple Watch, Jawbone, Samsung Gearfit, Garmin Forerunner and Nike Fuelband. Ranging from $69 to over $500, there is a device for every athlete.
Conner Titmarsh, Customer Experience Representative at Chapters/Indigo in Richmond Hill, which carries the Fitbit products, says he sees a lot of first-time exercisers purchasing Fitbits. “It’s interesting how it drives people to be active. It can be an activation tool for people. They see the numbers and are motivated to reach their goals,” he says.
Titmarsh says Fitbit is one of the few stand-alone fitness tracking devices. “Others such as the Apple watch or Galaxy are watches. The Fitbit is a tracking device and not a phone, so it is easy to understand.”
With the recent push towards active living and the competitive price point of Fitbit wearables, Titmarsh says sales are high. In fact, among fitness products, Fitbit is well in the lead, accounting for over 50% of the three million-plus sales of wearable fitness devices across a one-year period from 2013 to 2014.
And the trend is showing no signs of slowing down: sales of wearables are predicted to grow from 29 million in 2014 to 172 million in 2018, with a spike in 2015, largely due to the release of the Apple watch fuelling the market.
For every athlete, there is a device that best suits his or her individual needs and lifestyle. Fitbit, whose mantra is to make fitness part of your daily routine, has great appeal with first-time exercisers who want to track their data for motivation. The Garmin Forerunner 220 or 620 watch appeals to runners; it uses vibrating alerts to keep you on your ideal pace and automatically pauses when you stop at a traffic light.
Garmin’s slogan is ‘there is a coach in every watch . . . and sometimes a coach is a person who knows how well you should perform, even when you doubt.’ The Garmin 620 watch will display your suggested recovery time after your run, estimate your state of recovery immediately following a run, and operate in a countdown mode until the next effort. Recovery can range from six to 96 hours. Now that is a smart watch!
If you’re looking to add some friendly competition to your workouts, the Nike FuelBand SE syncs wirelessly to the app for sharing your progress with friends. The Jawbone wearable has a streamlined design, comes in six colours, and includes activity and sleep tracking, food logging and a ‘smart coach’ which gives you motivational and personalized insights you need to reach your goals – plus, it gets smarter over time: as Smart Coach gets to know you, insights and tips get better to help you get more fit.
The much anticipated Apple Watch has reminders to be more active. “If I sit too long, it will actually tap me on the wrist to remind me to get up and move, because a lot of doctors think sitting is the new cancer,” says Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc. This alone is sufficient reason to adopt a wearable device – to simply get moving!

Calling all couch potatoes!

Dr. Mike Evans, in his YouTube video, 23 & ½ hours, which has gone viral with over 4.5 million views, suggests that being active 30 minutes per day may be the most important thing we can do for our health, more than any other lifestyle factor. In his research, Evans references Lennert Veerman whose Australian study found that those who watched six hours of television per day could expect to live five years less than those who watch no television. Wearable devices have huge potential to change our habits and motivate us to get moving.
Stouffville Leisure Centre Fitness Instructor, Veronika Borovilos, is an avid Fitbit proponent. As a trainer, Borovolis thinks wearables are a great tool especially for those who want to get into fitness. She has had her Fitbit for over a year and uses it to track her daily steps, calories burned and kilometres walked.
“It really suits my personality,” she explains. “At the end of the day, I like to see that I’ve reached my goal of 10,000 steps. Often, I used to sit at home at the end of the day, and now I’ll go for a walk at night.” Borovolis also uses the GPS function on her FitBit to track her walks with her two-year-old son and brand new puppy.

A device for every budget

For the more budget-minded, some promising options are available as smart phone applications. For example:
  • MapMyFitness (Run, Walk, Ride, Hike, etc) offers GPS tracking of exercise sessions, voiceover reminders of pace and distance, as well as coaching tips.
  • My Fitness Pal Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker, which allows you to track caloric intake and fitness activities, has been rated the number one health and fitness app for four years. With a database of over five million foods, My Fitness Pal allows for fast and easy diet and fitness tracking – and it’s free.
  • Runtastic is the perfect app for runners as it features an integrated music player, live tracking, cheering and social sharing.

Universal appeal and benefits

To date, wearable devices and fitness applications have appealed to those who might need them the least: people who are already active. Younger, early adopters seem to be the main target market of wearable devices.
However, as new research suggests that wearable technology could be a booster for employee productivity and job satisfaction, we may see corporations and other groups heeding the call.
The American Medical Association advocates tying such devices more closely into healthcare programs, giving wearers incentives to reduce healthcare costs if they achieve a certain number of steps per day. Likewise, the heart rate monitor option combined with measurement of steps, distance and calories burned on many devices, including The Fitbit Charge HR, is beneficial for cardiac rehabilitation patients.
With so many applications in fitness and healthcare, a wearable device can serve as an excellent tool, not only motivating us to become more active, but also educating and inspiring us toward better habits and better health.
Now that’s a trend worth following!
Tiffany Moffat is is a certified Personal Trainer Specialist, Fitness Instructor Specialist, Pre and Postnaatal Specialist (Canfitpro certified) and freelance writer who has worked in the fitness industry for 25 years.

Monday, November 3, 2014

“Thinspiration”: How a Culture of Body Obsession Is Infecting Our Daughters

The average teenage girl spends a combined 10 hours & 45 minutes per day on media consumption: on a weekly basis this translates to 31 hours watching television, 17 hours listening to music, 3 hours watching movies, 4 hours reading magazines and 10 hours online. By the time a girl celebrates her 17th birthday, she will have been exposed to a whopping 250,000 commercial messages, many of them damaging to her self-image and sense of self-worth. The images and messages that teenage girls are exposed to that glamorize thinness and glorify the “bikini-ready body,” create an impossible ideal for girls, and in turn, fuel low self-esteem as well as unhealthy and sometimes dangerous behaviors to achieve this ideal. Low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders are the leading mental health problems facing girls today, and it can be said that it is being fueled not entirely but to a large extent by the messaging that girls are exposed to through the media. The media’s ability to shape our societal views and opinions and its’ influence on female self-esteem is not a new phenomenon, however, its’ pervasiveness is becoming unparalleled. Today’s prevalence of social media websites and the diversity of platforms, such as Tumblr, Facebook and Instragram mean that media messaging is impacting teenage girls 24/7. How do we teach teenage girls to love their bodies and see their own beauty and self-worth in a mine-field of media messaging that is damaging to their spirit, psyche and body image?


Trending now on social media websites such as Tumblr, Instragram & Facebook are images and messaging that offer "Thinspiration," also referred to as “Thinspro,” to girls seeking inspiration to look more like the images that they want to emulate from television and magazine advertising. Often initiated by anorexic (“pro-ana”) and bulimic girls looking for online community, these sites seek to “inspire” their followers to be thin and espouse that self-worth is measured by the space between your thighs. Messages that tout, “because the pain of looking in the mirror hurts more than starving,” and images that worship the “thigh gap,” a measurable space between a girl’s thighs when her knees are touching, are insidiously commonplace and are fueling extreme body fixation in young women. In truth, whether a woman’s inner thighs touch is largely dependent on bone structure, the shape of her pelvic girdle and how far apart her hipbones are. Aside from a small minority of body types, you have to be severely underweight for the thighs to separate, and since thigh gap is not a normal body shape for most women, achieving it often means severely altering behaviour.

The dividing line between internet searches for motivation to get fit versus a search to get skinny is grey indeed, meaning a teenager seeking fitness inspiration will invariably stumble upon damaging and often seductive images of attractive, slim and often sexy young women. Endless artistic photos of skinny girls can be hypnotizing and is luring our daughters to aspire to an unhealthy body image that is excessively thin and is encouraging damaging behaviors to achieve this impossibly perfect ideal. What’s frightening about this trend in social media is that it is girls who are creating the content and sabotaging the self-esteem of other girls, of their peers.

Glamorizing Skinny

Last year, the “thigh gap” flooded social media; this year it’s the “bikini bridge.” Started initially as an online hoax, the “bikini bridge,” has, as intended, snowballed into a body fixation and warped measure of beauty for teenage girls. Urban Dictionary describes the “bikini bridge” as 'when bikini bottoms are suspended between the two hip bones, causing a space between the bikini and the lower abdomen.’ More disturbingly, refers to its home page as “a collection of photos dedicated to the graceful space created by a woman's hip bones suspending bikini bottoms from their abdomens,’ in essence glamorizing skinny to a target market of impressionable young women seeking a sense of belonging and acceptance.

In the 1960’s, well-known Canadian philosopher of communication, Marshall McLuhan coined the term “global village,” in reference to how electronic media has contracted the globe into a village. At no time has this been truer, with messages impacting us 24/7 and influencing our views and beliefs at an alarming rate. Blogger Kate L. shares her story on www.proud2beme, an online support network for girls created by NEDA, The National Eating Disorders Association. “Like thousands of other young girls today, I grew up in an environment that was constantly putting emphasis on the illusion that thinness was everything, that I would be much happier if only I could focus on losing weight. Technology’s influence multiplied this pressure tenfold, and I found myself spending more and more hours on social media websites like Tumblr and Pinterest, scrolling through “thinspiration”: images and “pro-ana” (pro anorexia) blogs, which encourage young girls to pursue disordered eating behaviours. I became oblivious to any other way of living, and within months found myself deep in an eating disorder that was constantly being reinforced by support on the Internet.”

Jean Kilbourne, author, speaker, and filmmaker who is internationally recognized for her work on the image of women in advertising, says that statistically only 5% of women are born with a model’s body type. “You can’t diet yourself into it any more than you can make yourself taller,” she says in her 1995 film called Slim Hopes: Advertising & the Obsession with Thinness.
It’s a body type that excludes 95% of the American population, and yet she argues that it is the only body type that we ever see in the media that is deemed acceptable.

The media delivers the same destructive messaging over and over again making women believe that in order to be acceptable, they need to be painfully, unnaturally thin. It’s not surprising then that eleven percent of college women have bulimia nervosa and one in ten women in America have a serious eating disorder. In fact, alarming figures for hospital admissions for eating disorders rose by 16% in 2012. The most disturbing aspect of the statistics, released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), were the ages of those being admitted. The biggest increase was amongst girls aged 10-15, up 69% from 2011 to 2012. One in 10 of all admissions were girls aged 15. Forty-seven percent of admissions were children aged five to nine. This is not to say that talking about “thigh gap” or being interested in it is in and of itself an eating disorder, but it does insidiously creep into dialogue that sets girls up to be unhappy with their bodies.

The Perfect Storm

The teenage years are an age where girls are trying so hard to figure out who they are, whom they like and what they like. Acceptance and “fitting in” become paramount to all else. Combine that with raging teenage hormones and mood fluctuations and you have the perfect storm for girls to fall off the rails. In an effort to be accepted by their peers, girls will often loose their sense of identity and direction. Enter a “thinspro” website that feeds into teenage insecurities with messages that state “nobody wants a fatty,” and that “nobody will drop you when you crowd surf” if you’re skinny. Girls easily fall prey to this kind of messaging because being skinny is about control when your inner confidence and stability are crumbling.

Seeking Leadership

Girls are getting messaging early on that they need to be impossibly beautiful in order to be accepted and that the thing that’s most important is how they look. Their value and self-worth depend on that and in turn boys get the message that that’s what’s important about girls. It is profitable for advertisers to make women feel terrible about themselves, so as a culture women are brought up to be fundamentally insecure. Every form of media- advertising, films, music videos, TV shows, video games and social media-propagates images of impossibly thin, beautiful women. And it follows, that no matter what a woman does, no matter what her achievements; her value still depends on her appearance.

In her film Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women, Jean Kilbourne notes that there is a hunger among girls and young women for leadership. In search of a sense of identity, young women and girls need more positive role modeling. They need a shift in the emphasis being solely on looks to being about their character, intellect and accomplishments. One such role model is Hunger Games actress, Jennifer Lawrence, who has stated unabashedly that she will never loose weight for Hollywood role. "…I think when it comes to the media, the media needs to take responsibility for the effect that it has on our younger generation, on these girls who are watching these television shows, and picking up how to talk and how to be cool..,” she says.
This summer we have also seen positive messaging from advertisers such as Aerie, who now feature girls in their print campaigns who are not models and who are not retouched. Always’s recent Throw Like a Girl campaign seeks to empower girls by shifting the insulting school yard connotation of  “throwing like a girl” to suggesting inner strength and confidence.

Girls need to feel good about themselves again and we need to help them get there. What is absolutely critical is that as parents and educators, we are aware of the influences of the media and social media and that we begin discussion on many of these issues. Mothers need to dial into and become aware of these trends and issues and open dialogue with their daughters about healthy behaviour and positive messaging. According the Dove Self Esteem Program for Girls, mothers and other female mentors (aunts, grandmothers, female educators) have the biggest impact on our daughters’ self-esteem, above models, actors, and sports figures.. Susan Ringwood, Chief Executive of Eating Disorders Charity Beat, says, “It’s a long-term goal, but we need to nourish a generation of young people equipped to be resilient to these pressures and critical of the society that promoted them.” The only diet teenagers need to be on is a media diet. They should turn off their devices and instead nourish their bodies with exercise, healthy eating and a huge dose of self-love.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It's A HIIT! Get Fitter, Faster with High Intensity Interval Training
High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT (pronounced ‘hit’), can be done anywhere with little or no equipment, is simple to follow, and takes very little time. Great for beginners, as well as experienced exercisers looking for more challenge, a HIIT workout improves cardiovascular and muscular fitness, improves metabolism and increases fat loss. Good news for today’s time-crunched generation!
The HIIT workout challenges the cardiovascular system through quick, challenging bursts of activity, with exercisers working at 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, or at 70 to 80% of their maximum heart rate. Intense work is followed by a period of rest or lower intensity activity to let the body recover.
For example, the exerciser might perform a high knees run or burpees for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeating this cycle for four minutes. Total workout time would be 12 to 20 minutes and would include two to four rounds of different exercises in each four-minute block.
Another example would combine 30 seconds of high intensity and two to four minutes of low intensity exercise. Other popular HIIT formats include Boot Camp classes, Extreme Interval Training workouts, and the more recent SHRED workout.

Have a Heart!

HIIT is even being used for recovering heart patients. A recent conference hosted by the Ontario Society for Health and Fitness addressed the benefits of HIIT for older adults and cardiac patients. Erich Baumhard is a fitness counselor and personal trainer with the Town of Whitchurch Stouffville Leisure Centre, a ‘heartwise’ facility which works with Newmarket’s Southlake Hospital on the rehabilitation and treatment of cardiac patients. “Interval training is considered the best way for your cardio system to train and adapt,” says Erich. “HIIT can be introduced safely for cardiac patients to improve heart function and limit repeated cardiac episodes.”

Going for Gold

Why has HIIT become the gold standard of fitness training? According to Shanon McMillan, personal trainer with York Region’s Coreshots Fitness, most of us have little time to work out and want a quick fix, and HITT training is efficient and great for calorie burning. “Thirty minutes of high intensity training is the equivalent of a one-hour run,” she says.
If this sounds too good to be true, consider the research. A study conducted by exercise physiologist, Dr. Peter Lemon, at The University of Western Ontario, found that six bouts of 30 seconds of high intensity interspersed with four minutes of low-intensity running burned over twice as much fat as typical aerobic cardio, despite spending half as much time on the treadmill.
So if you thought slow and steady always wins the race, especially when it comes to calorie burning, think again. In the past, exercise physiologists advocated ‘steady state’ cardio as most efficient for fat loss because relatively more fat (and less glycogen) is burned by the body as a source of fuel at lower intensities. As a result of this thinking, fat-burning workouts such as jogging, long walks and low intensity aerobics classes have dominated fitness programs for many years.
This research remains valid: your body does in fact burn more fat relative to glycogen when you jog, but you need to look at total fat burn. At higher intensities, you burn more total fat even if the fat/glycogen-burning ratio is lower; that’s because the number of total calories consumed is greater.
As an added bonus, a HIIT workout also burns more total fat due to the EPOC effect (excess post exercise oxygen consumption), resulting in an increase of as much as 37% more fat burning up to 14 hours post exercise. Comparatively, a long aerobic jog results in virtually no caloric burn post workout.

Balance is the Key

Most fitness trainers espouse blending both approaches to exercise. You need longer duration cardiovascular training to build your cardiovascular fitness base as well as HIIT training to build strength, burn fat and increase your metabolism. Research at The University of Western Ontario has shown that although short intervals and long runs produce similar fitness increases, they do so through different mechanisms. Interval work stimulates greater gains in muscle efficiency, while long distance running produces more adaptation in the heart.
“It’s important to mix it up,” Shanon advises. “Try doing two 20 to 30 minute HIIT workouts a week and one longer cardio workout of 40 to 50 minutes duration.” Ideally, include a yoga or stretching workout once a week as well, and if time permits, one weight-training workout a week to round out your program.

Don’t Overdo It!

Beginners who want to be ‘bikini-ready’ in a month by benefitting from HIIT’s promise of quick fat-loss should be cautious of doing too much too soon. Too much HIIT can cause overtraining syndrome, injury and burnout. It’s crucial to consider volume and intensity when you are starting out.
Limiting HIIT workouts to two, maximum three, times a week with a 48-hour rest between sessions is important for recovery, as is sufficient sleep and healthy eating. “HIIT is fat-burning, but it can also cause injury,” says Erich. “People need to get away from just losing weight and focus on being athletically minded, building muscular strength and a good cardio base.” Balance and overall fitness are crucial to staying injury-free.
When beginning a HIIT program, be sure to include an adequate warm-up and cool-down, and be careful of progressing too quickly. “Beginners should do a minimum of four weeks of a periodized program of strength and cardiovascular training of four days a week to build a cardio base, and then introduce HIIT,” says Erich. He also recommends consulting a trainer before starting a fitness program and/or seeing a physiotherapist if you experience recurring injuries.

Anyone Can Do It

HIIT may sound intimidating and challenging, but if you progress gradually and build a fitness base, it can be an effective workout for every fitness level. “Everyone’s definition of intensity is different,” says Shanon, “and every workout can be modified to the individual. The problem is that people don’t take the options to modify.”
Shanon encourages her clients to know their limits, which makes them feel better about themselves and encourages them to return. “If people work too hard, they get injured and don’t come back. I always give three levels for an exercise and allow people to feel comfortable doing level one.”
For the more experienced, HIIT differs from what people have done previously. “Anything different benefits the body and challenges it,” says Shanon. HIIT can also be incorporated into just about any activity, for example, by using kettlebells, boxing, step, warrior ropes, spinning, rowing or running.
So, while HIIT can provide an efficient workout for every level, remember to progress slowly and know your limits. Find a trainer or instructor who can both motivate you and modify workouts to your fitness level. Look for a Boot Camp, SHRED, HIIT or Tabata class at your local fitness facility for a great way to build muscle and burn fat more efficiently.
This trend is here to stay, so jump on the bandwagon to greater health and fitness and try a HIIT workout today!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Awaken to Health, Confidence and The Power of You!

Awaken to the power of you! Discover that happiness, energy and vitality are not some elusive goals, but instead a question of connecting with your physical well-being. The elixir of life, simply stated, is healthy living. Through exercise, healthy eating and life balance, you can live to your fullest potential. Being the healthiest you can be will bring you unprecedented joy and energy and help to reduce stress in your life. It’s a new year and the best time to discover how you can feel inspired to live the fullest life that you can imagine powered by healthy living. Keep reading to learn five positive steps you can take towards having more confidence, energy and a healthy body. We want you to be inspired to be your best, live your healthiest life and find happiness! With our specific nutrition, fitness, life balance and self-esteem tips, you will be well on your way to awaken to the power of you!

“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”

Why is optimum health so important? Without good health, we don’t have the energy to enjoy all the things that give us pleasure and fulfillment in life, such as our relationships, work and leisure. Everything extends from a healthy body, including a healthy state of mind, as well as our emotional and spiritual health. To be able to connect with a healthy state of being is essential to avoiding stress and disease, the pitfalls of not prioritizing healthy living. Think of a fit and healthy body as being your ammunition against illness and disease or as your assurance of a life fulfilled with unparalleled joy and energy.

With such promise of happiness and fulfillment that comes from healthy living, why do so many of us procrastinate starting an exercise regime, neglect our nutrition, or overwork until our stress levels skyrocket? One reason is that we don’t make health a priority. Know that you and only you are in charge of your destiny. Now is the time to start making your health your number one priority.

Another obstacle is that we perceive change as an insurmountable hurdle. The idea of beginning an exercise program or making changes to our diet can be daunting! With so much (often conflicting) information available to us we are not sure where to begin. It’s easier to maintain the status quo; after all, it’s human nature to resist change! Instead, imagine awakening to a life in which you have energy and vitality to enjoy every day, in which your state of mind is calm instead of harried, and the food you eat and enjoy fuels your mind and body. So, if you are looking to start the New Year with the goal of becoming healthier, let us show you how to live with health, confidence and energy. With the following simple steps, learn how to springboard your plan towards a more fulfilling, stress-free life!

The first step in creating a plan for change is to set an intention and define your goals. Without this important step, we are all good intention and no action. Canadian yogi Eoin Finn aptly phrased the importance of goal setting when he said, “Why bob in life when you can surf.”

Firstly, set an intention for 2014! Similar to setting a new year’s resolution, an intention asks what you want to cultivate in your life. However, an intention is softer than a resolution. Instead of a “resolution” to loose ten pounds, set an intention to have a healthier relationship with your weight.  An intention is more global than a resolution and honors our imperfections and humanity. Since 83% of New Year’s goal-oriented, guilt-fueled “resolutions” fail; an intention is something that makes your new journey more joyful and meaningful. You still have to do the work, but your focus shifts from sacrifice and self-control to one of acceptance.

Five steps towards healthy living:

1. Get moving!

“We were meant to move. And when we don’t, we increase our risk of virtually every known ailment,” says Bob Greene, author of “The Life You Want.” Illnesses associated with a sedentary lifestyle include diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis and stroke among others. It is well documented that exercise strengthens the immune system in ways that can help fight everything from small infections to cancer.
The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that adults ages 18-64 accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per week (20 minutes per day) and include muscle and bone strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least two days per week. Moderate activity is defined as walking or bike riding and vigorous activity is defined as jogging or cross-country skiing.
Many of us know what to do to get moving, but don’t have the motivation to stick to an exercise program. What is of utmost importance for your success is that you find a deeper emotional or psychological motivation to exercise. This is something that inspires you and only you, such as you want the energy to play with your children or grandchildren or you are always feeling low energy and it is impacting your work and relationships or you want to feel more self-confident. Get in touch with what your individual barriers are to exercise, such as “I don’t have time to workout,” or “I can’t afford a gym membership” or “I don’t know where to start” and counter your known objections with doable steps to overcome these “excuses.” Start putting yourself first, start scheduling exercise into your life and be consistent!
Exercise is so vital to your health and happiness and if you can make this one change to your lifestyle, you will probably find that the other steps will easily follow suit. You will sleep better, be less stressed, more confident and you will want to fuel your body better and so you will naturally want to eat better, too.
2. Eat better!

Put aside all of your diet, “loose weight fast” books that you have collected over the years and instead get back to basics. Eating better and maintaining a healthy weight is about making healthy eating a lifestyle change. In the United States, spending on diets and self-help books is an average of $60 billion per year. Save your money because diets don’t work! In fact, 98% of diets fail. Instead, try changing your eating patterns by including more unprocessed, whole foods and including Mother Nature’s healthiest offerings, such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. This simple change will help create enormous improvements in your energy level, weight and health.

“Having a healthy approach to food, and eating better is about achieving that sense of balance; lots of the good stuff, loads of variety, and the odd indulgence every now and then,” says Jamie Oliver, author of numerous cookbooks on healthy eating, including The Food Revolution.

For more information on eating healthy, go to the Health Canada website,, where you can find a link to Canada’s Food Guide, which offers information on food groups, portion sizes and how to read labels at the grocery store.  Or, consider hiring a dietitian. To find a registered dietitian in your area, visit

3. Reduce Stress.

According to Stats Canada, more than a quarter (27%) of Canadian working adults, roughly 3.7 million people, described their lives on most days as 'quite a bit' or 'extremely' stressful, meaning that they go through a regular day feeling a high level of stress. Stress is becoming a major health concern, responsible for a multitude of illnesses, including heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes. Stress also impacts our immune system, which protects us from many serious diseases. Sadly, stress is a known contributor to the development of alcoholism, diabetes, drug addiction, suicide and other harmful behaviors.

The majority of us are living day to day in a constant state of low-grade stress, where adrenaline is constantly being released into our bodies and has become our main form of fuel. To keep up with our harried pace, we consume processed foods, sugar and caffeine. Living life in this state of “overdrive” is coming at a cost to our health and well being. Our current behavior, if not checked, will continue to result in a host of health related problems, unrestrained stress and resulting unhappiness.

It’s time for a shift in our values and perspective, starting by slowing down! It is a conscious choice that many are adopting through exercise,  yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises. Giving yourself permission to check out and hang out in a hammock may be life changing. So, take time for life! Decide today that you won’t let work and stress overwhelm you.

4. Banish negativity!

Self-esteem and confidence are key to our happiness and yet 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance. Americans had 11 million plastic surgery procedures in 2006 and 333, 000 of those were performed in the U.S. on women 18 years of age and younger! How did our definition of beauty get so warped?! Today’s epidemic of plastic surgery is a barometer of women undervaluing their inner and outer beauty and it’s time for a change.

We have it all backwards! Instead of focusing on plastic surgery and dieting to achieve a healthy body, we need to focus on healthy living. A fit and healthy body is a by-product of a balanced, healthy life-style.

And, what happened to valuing inner beauty? Instead of trying to repair our broken confidence with this band-aid approach, we need to look deeper and search for personal strength and beauty within ourselves. Women need to return to a “girl state of mind,” meaning we need to be happy in our own skin, not influenced by the media and confident with our inner beauty. We need to pay attention to negative self-talk and turn any negatives into a positive, soul-nourishing inner dialogue.

5. Creative expression

According to psychologist Abraham Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, creativity, along with morality and spontaneity is among our highest human needs and leads us to self-actualization. To achieve happiness and tap into our deepest human needs, we need to express our creativity. Tapping into your creativity through art, photography dance, writing or music can help alleviate stress and help you connect with your higher self.  Think of an activity that allows you to completely loose track of time and this is probably your go-to creative pastime. For many, work may offer creative expression. Perhaps you are a marketer or entrepreneur, a writer or fashion designer and are doing what you love for a living. For others, choosing a past time that allow you to rediscover your creative energy through wood working, scrapbooking or belly dancing class will go a long way towards bringing you joy, vitality and a sense of pride.

It’s never too late to improve your health and well-being. The small steps you take today can become huge strides in protecting your health in the future. In not much time at all, you can lose weight, strengthen and tone your muscles, reduce stress, tap into your creative energy and improve your self-esteem.

It’s a new year and a great time to begin making changes towards healthier living. “You have the power to change anything, because you are the one who chooses your thoughts and you are the one who feels your feelings,” says Michael Bernard Beckwith, minister, author, and founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center in the U.S. Try incorporating these five steps towards change and you will bring vitality, wellness and happiness into your life and awaken to health, confidence and the power of you!