Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Importance of Flexibility

No, not doing the splits.  Although kudos if you can do that!

I'm talking about not having such a rigid training program that you beat yourself up if you miss a day.  I've talked about flexible diet plans here, but I believe flexible training plans are equally important.  Because life happens.

For starters, when was the last time you switched up your training program?  In order to build more muscle, you should periodically "surprise" your muscles.  I have 3 upper body workouts and 3 lower body workouts, which I will typically do twice each before switching to another.  And if someone is using the equipment I "need" or I just feel like doing something different, I do.

But what about if you can't make it to the gym?  There are many different options for things you can do with kids or right in your home.  Some of my favourites are taking my girls with me to the walking track and doing some kind of home workout video in my living room.  And sharing a post-workout smoothie with my toddler, of course.

Life can be busy and things don't usually go as planned.  Injuries also happen, an you may have to take a break from exercise entirely.  As long as you keep eating properly you shouldn't be gaining fat or losing much muscle in a short amount of time.  And you can always resume working toward your goals when you are able again.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Personal Trainers: Good, Bad, and Downright Dangerous

There are an enormous number of people out there professing to be "experts" on training and nutrition.  It's hard to know who to listen to.  Here are a few tips I've discovered when looking for a trainer:

1. Look for someone with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to learn new techniques and try different ideas.  If they are constantly reading up on new techniques and research, they are a lot less likely to just be using the same program for every person who comes to them, and a lot more likely to be willing and able to work within a person's strengths and preferences.

2. Run far away if you see a very restrictive low-calorie diet plan.  Personal Trainers are NOT nutritionists.  They have some basic knowledge, but should not be doing any more than making general recommendations.  I highly recommend searching out a Registered Dietician in your area for sound nutritional advice.  You can search for Registered Dieticians in Canada at

3. A good trainer will correct sloppy form and have recommendations to avoid injury whilst exercising. 

4. Find someone who has time for you.  If a trainer is fantastic, but they don't have time to answer a few quick questions when you're struggling, it's pointless to have one.

5. Anytime someone is constantly trying to sell you on a particular product or gimmick and is unwilling to make a general recommendation and let you choose your own product is probably a sales rep for that company.  This does not necessarily mean it's a bad product, but it doesn't mean it's a good or valuable product, either.  I find this to be a breech of trust between client and trainer.

Really, you want a trainer who has passion for what they are doing.  You can definitely tell if it is "just a job", or if a trainer is truly passionate about helping others.  And, to be honest, a bad trainer can be a lot worse than no trainer.

Good luck!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Running Shoes - An Injury Waiting to Happen?

Running shoes have been around for a long time, with the claim that they will help prevent injury.  And supposedly you have to replace them every 3 months to ensure the health of your body.  But what if your $150 running shoes are actually causing injury?

Hear me out.  When you run, what kind of method do you use?  Do you run landing hard on your heels and then rolling to the balls of your feet, or do you land lightly on the balls of your feet and push off slightly forward?  What about when you run barefoot along the beach?

Running shoes are rigid by design to "support" the foot.  But because they are rigid, it tends to make people land hard on the heels of their feet rather than lightly on the balls of their feet.  This rigidity found in almost all footwear these days can also lead to foot problems in some individuals.

Or at least, that is the claim made by barefoot shoe manufacturers.  It seems that not enough research has been done yet on the topic to either prove or disprove barefoot running as the healthier or less injury-prone method, but I'm willing to give it a whirl.

I have a pair of Vibram Fivefingers barefoot runners, and I like them so far.  But I have not used them for much more than short jogs or sprints.  I look forward to seeing some more research done on the topic.

Food for thought, anyways.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

PPD - Myths vs. Reality

It's been a long journey for me to make this post.  The truth is, I struggled on and off with Postpartum Depression for months after the birth of my second baby.  Other than my husband, this is the first time I have actually admitted it to anyone.  My baby is now 7 months old, and I am finally feeling like I'm able to get out of the house and do some of the things I love once again.

There is a stigma attached to any kind of mental illness.  Here are some of the most common myths I've found about PPD (some of which I believed prior to struggling myself):

1.  Only "weak" people get mental illness. 

Obviously not.  But the "strong" ones are the ones who aren't to proud to ask for help.

2.  PPD only really affects moms who have nothing going for them.

I had a great career, a loving husband, a nice house and healthy kids.  So there goes that idea!

3.  Since depression is all in a person's head, they can just decide to get over it.

It's really not that easy.  And because it is "all in a person's head", there really needs to be an outside source to help them through it.

4.  You can tell when someone has PPD

The only way you can know for sure that someone has PPD is if they tell you.  Some people are very good at hiding their feelings.

5.  PPD only affects the occasional mom

Approximately one in four moms are thought to suffer from PPD at some point.  And many moms (myself included) never report it or seek professional help.  That's hardly occasional.

So what can we do about it?

If you are struggling with any kind of mental illness, talk to someone you trust about it at the very least.  You are a stronger person than I am if you have the guts to seek professional help, and I applaud you.

If you know a new mom well, come over to visit, hold the baby, and just be there for her.  Ask her how things are going (not with the baby, with HER) and really care about her answer.  I always craved someone to spill my guts to, but my pride always got in the way.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Is "Clean Eating" a myth?

I've been pondering this question for awhile now.  In my previous contest preparation ("off-season"), I ate perfectly within my diet plan 6 days of the week and then was allowed one "cheat day" per week.  The problem with this is that there were quite simply too many things I was trying my best to stay away from except for on Saturdays... when I would binge and eat whatever I wanted.

And when I wasn't giving myself "cheat days", I would invariably wind up breaking down one day and going on a lengthy binge.  Either way, not healthy.  And if you are actually one of the people who can ALWAYS stick to perfectly "clean" foods (whatever that means), I'd call that an eating disorder.

So what is the solution?  I've started trying out a new "diet" called the Macro Diet, or IIFYM (if it fits your macros).  I recommend watching this video by Layne Norton, a coach, bodybuilder, powerlifter, and scientist:

Basically, I'm now shooting for 240g of carbs, 150g of protein, 55g of fat, and at least 30g of fibre.  Within those macros, I can eat what I want.  I'm finding the "My Fitness Pal" app is a great one for tracking my macros on a daily basis (I just ignore the calories).

Nothing against clean foods, but moderation is the key.  Instead of eating clean 90% of the time and then sitting down and eating an entire pizza or tub of ice cream, I'm attempting to eat mostly clean, but if I want a small bowl of ice cream or a slice or two of pizza, I can just factor it into my daily macros... guilt free!

Another thing to keep in mind is that when you hire a personal trainer, they are not certified to give you a diet plan!  Only a certified dietician can do that.  There is a reason nutritional science is a lengthy program; it is very easy to mess up a person's entire metabolic system with poor nutritional advice.

Before competing again, I need to get my eating habits into a healthy and sustainable method.  Right now, that is my #1 priority for my health.