It’s All About the Tweak



I am a big believer in tweaking rather than radically changing things up (although I did move to Japan on short notice and dropped everything to spend three months in Spain, and quit university to become a dancer).

At this stage of the game when we are inundated by stuff telling us how to live our lives moment by moment, from the time we put down our phone to the time we rise, and those most crucial waking hours, we are flooded with shoulds!

No one asked us about our life. We all seem to fit into a mold that is capable of forsaking our comfortable if not completely healthy morning routine to meditate, exercise, journal have a cold shower, discuss something in depth with a wise person, go for a walk to ponder the universe and then make a multi-ingredient smoothie to sip while still avoiding our emails and news feed.

Some of my clients take five minutes to dash from bed to mascara to lip gloss to the car!

I had a routine that got scrunched the busier I got. My routine had originally allowed for plenty of time for coffee and chat with my partner, meditation, work on my novel, some working out on a cross-trainer and then that cold shower.

This all lasted for a bit until my schedule filled up and I had to be out the door by 8:30. (I understand many of you have days that start way earlier.) Anyway the dog walk got shoved to the end of the routine, news feed took over and we still had our coffee together since it has been an ongoing tradition for about 18 years now.

With best of intentions I could not shift my ass out of coffee time into get ready for work and walk the dog time. Dog got ripped off and I was invariable just-on-time for my first client of the day.

I did a little self reflection and came to realize novel writing-cold shower-cross trainer-meditating time had become check the weather network and then get completely distracted down the internet rabbit-hole-until-coffee time.

I tweaked. My dog needs his walk; I signed that contract when he came to live with us. He slammed it down on the floor and made me leave my paw print. Now I get up early and we are out for our leisurely walky-joggy thing by six thirty. This covers dog, exercise, meditation, happy thoughts, lungs full of fresh air and time enough to arrive home for coffee, treats and no guilty mad dash out the door.

I’m hoping I can somehow inspire you to tweak if you are in a rut right now. The answer might be less complicated than you think!

Fabulize your Food


I am so excited. I bought this groovy pan from Canadian Tire for half off and it has been SO USEFUL! My friends down the road had us over for a dinner party and they had the neatest grill marks on their food, vegetables and tofu (they are vegans). I think they have the Cadillac version of the pan since I balked at the price when I found theirs. But mine is a charm:

  • nothing sticks to it
  • everything cooks evenly
  • everything gets groovy grill marks on it
  • it looks like I have been labouring over a hot barbecue

I am totally recommending this gizmo for your kitchen. You can start having guests over again and offering things like grilled red peppers (an excellent source of vitamin c), grilled asparagus (fun to see how quickly it makes your pee smell, and a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals AND protein), and if you’re a vegetarian you can get nifty grill marks on your tofu that you have gently sautéed in sesame oil, or sprinkled with some smoked paprika powder.

You will amaze yourself! No more scraping burned whatever off of your grandma’s old iron frying pan the next morning because you had to soak it overnight in nitro glycerine to revive it.

Above all it is an excellent way to start integrating some fresh veggies back into your diet, with little heartache, no disasters, minimal time commitment and a whole lot of   yummy flavour from the natural sweet taste of grilled veggies.

Trust me, if I can do it anyone can!

Happy New Year! (On the Exercise Calendar)

blog1Notice how I am wearing a slinky stringer top and how fabulous I look. It’s probably because I am trying to hide my mid-rift that seemed to have expanded (and contracted) from time to time over the summer. I am human!

Summer can be a big challenge. You want to traipse around half naked, divest yourself of cumbersome clothing, doff your duds at the beach and not give a damn who notices. In fact it might even be nice to turn a few heads.

Unfortunately pie (which I make) and beer (which I love) are my two biggest summer enemies! In moderation they can be friends. I was of the thinking that, because of my active lifestyle I could eat and drink to my heart’s content on the weekends, to make up for a week of healthy smoothies, greens at every meal and thoughtfully prepared dinners.

Not so. Pie is good but there is the law of diminishing returns when a slice of pie becomes a half a pie and on and on and the weekend eating begins Friday evening and ends on Sunday night!

I believe in pie and beer, but it is moderation that is key. Beer, is great after some long hours spent in the garden, and pie is fantastic on a hot summer night with the warm breeze wafting through the house as you watch an old Doris Day or James Bond rerun. “Honey, would you like another piece of pie?”

To be honest, pie and beer aren’t that cruel; we have September to make amends, to make a new start, and to actually make a difference!

September is one of the busiest times in the world of fitness as we get re-calibrated to start new jobs, new studies and new directions. One of the easiest and most rewarding commitments we can make, that lets us have control, is the commitment towards wellness.

While getting to a gym may be all but impossible to add to a list of things like the prevailing work ethic, rush hour traffic and the cost of living, having your wellness come to you is an option. A realistic goal for September might be to lose 10 pounds by thanksgiving. And why not!

Right now the fields are being harvested with the freshest of produce. You can make pumpkin pie your pie in the sky reward by Thanksgiving for eating a healthy whole foods diet, while exercising on your own, at home. It is that simple! Just check out the online training page and see if a community of like minded folks (the 40-60 year old crowd) is your thing.

Going Online

The past few weeks I’ve been video taping for the online version of the Movable Beast. In some instances I managed to use two cameras so that viewers can get an idea of the technique from two angles. Of course, according to Murphy’s Law, this doesn’t always work, sometimes a camera just decides not to focus on the task at hand.

Anyway I have kept all videos short and sweet, so that you aren’t standing around for thirty-nine minutes while I complete the five hundredth rep of an exercise. Below is a sample of what you can expect. I’ve enjoyed filming and learning all the ins and outs of iMovie and its newer version. I am hoping that these videos will seemlessly help clients with their workouts; I have offered voice over cuing in most cases. Enjoy!

The Sum-up of the Lowdown

apr24blogI am a big proponent of the chin-up pull up for developing upper body strength, as my clients––both female and male––know. This is a great article, especially the progressions at the end, and lots of short videos. It is a LONG article, but there are many useful exercises to help develop core and upper body strength before executing the move. Also it is written by a Canadian female trainer who knows her stuff. I might have added one of my favourite strength developing moves, in which clients, with some isometric strength, can step off a bench, while in chin up position, and then lower themselves to the floor.While on the subject of pull-ups this article includes some fun variations.You have to watch the third video, an absolute hoot!

For glutes this article has some new ways to refine your technique, but I caution against being intimidated by the middle section of this piece subtitled Analyze. The videos following are helpful. As my clients know I LOVE the Bulgarian split squat, followed by some healthy sets of sumo deadlifts. Great glute article here, I will definitely be using some of these this week!

Lots of info for shoulder weary folks here, from advice on serratus anterior warmup, to IMG_4661proper bench press technique, to complimentary exercises (I like to do as supersets). The last bit on upright rows is great, and answers some perpetual questions.

I think that’s enough food for thought for this week. Remember to drink lots of water. I try to have a big glass as soon as I walk in the door, to help cut down on stuffing my face with nuts and curds. So water first, then eat! Cheers!


Some Hits and Misses in the weekly roundup

blog picapr10So here they are, some great guidelines to healthy eating and sensible exercising. I tried to mention the stuff that should be a worthwhile read. Once again these articles are recommended by PTDC.

Some esssentials? Muscle gain happens pretty slowly. Don’t change your diet too drastically to lose weight, or you know, the metabolism slows down. My own advice is to slightly tweak the diet, and perhaps remove things you can do without, you know, maybe add an apple where you would normally scarf down a 3 Musketeers at about 3:30 in the afternoon, and see what happens. Just sayin’

General Health

This article about progressions and pregressions needs a good copy edit. It is a good article for beginners as well as personal trainers, about performing bilateral exercises to get the proper technique and balance and then performing unilateral. And this article seems to be a good companion piece, well written about the first years of being a personal trainer, probably only relevant to trainers.

Good advice for those of us––the over 40 crowd about tweaking our workouts, and excellent workout/ life advice for all.

Reminder that the anterior pelvic tilt can be a bad habit. Cue shoulders back BUT cue also ribs down, it will align the body, glutes etc.

Strength Training and Body Building

Squat technique cues, upper back position, lower back not hyper extended, full belly/ back of oxygen, foot position (outside of heels), traps up first (instead of chest out cue), thinking of the return phase before standing up.

Deadlift Technique, lifting NOT from floor, and making sure lower back is set almost to neutral. 5 Deadlift cues, I like the first one, make your arms long

Some Power Moves, squat jump, dumbbell jump, medicine ball slam, and a reminder to keep the concentric part of a movement quick (to develop power).

How to Get Strong, I’d say this is most applicable for competitors, but if you wnat some food for thought and have time on your hands you can wade through this or skim it.

Building Size, Good and quick read – 10 tips

Two great supported tips for glute recruitment in lunges

Read this Excellent simple basic guideline to adhere to when creating your program/ split routine

A fun pec day exercise with dumbbells and a partner

Interesting article supporting the theory that determining BMI or body fat is next to impossible as is determing who is on the juice and who is a “natty” (natural bodybuilder).

Nutrition and Fat Loss

Some thoughts on carbs, if you don’t already have your own eating sorted out.

Promoting a higher protein consumption for older sector of population

Another Creatine promotion

Fun Little Ditty about the demonization of sugar

Lean to shredded article, but not sure of his qualifications. Humourous read.

More reminders of how to diet without calorie counting and a link to a free fat loss diet

Funny, dispelling the fat wrap craze and I guess a good starting point to dispel all the crazes

Great bodyweight finishers for your workouts (for fatloss)













My Sum Up of Others’ Labours


apr3blogThis is a sum up of the top fifteen fitness articles this week from Personal Trainer Development Site. They found the articles, I just read them to see if any were worth your while. I’ve given a capsule sum-up and recommendations:

General Health

This article breaks some myths regarding core training i) squats and deadlifts won’t cover your core needs, but strengthen back chain ii) not only planks/ side planks are good – include range of motion ab work iii) core strength is not the be all and end all, it is an important part of the whole picture iv) bad posture (pelvis tilted forward) is not necessarily indicative of a weak core.

This article is about how visualization can produce desired results BUT you must visualize according to your current goals (ie don’t visualize a 900lb squat if you are at 135 lbs and only increasing 5 lbs per week). Also you can visualize between sets. I beleive in all this, it helps stay mindful focused and on the road to improvement.

This article is a little all over the place and a little unclear. I get trust your instincts, don’t get swept up in the quick fixes, and when push comes to shove, long walks coupled with the essential large moves (lift/ press/ pull) are really all that you need.

Great motivation piece here about the chasm between couch potato and Olympic athlete. A chasm that we create and can fix, in increments. The human physiology is built for activity. Just because we can’t be the next Olympic athlete, opera diva, ballet star doesn’t mean we have to stop moving, singing or dancing. I recommend reading this article!

This is light and cute acknowledging the health risks of being overweight, while reminding people that it is no one’s place to berate the overweight, and that giving healthful recommendations can be limited to physicians, best friends or family. It’s not an “us against them” issue.

Shoulder problems and how to fix them This is a good piece for weight lifter/ body builders/ resistance trainers with shoulder problems. The causes are a bit physio-speak-ish but the videos for restorative exercises are really clear, brief and helpful.

Strength Training:

This article addresses in adequate range of motion with heavy lifting of deadlift and bench press. For deadlift, it’s all about core strength and for bench press it is about scapula retraction throughout.

A humourous writer writing about the importance of hamstring and glute engagement in a bent over row, in which the lower back likes to take over.

Some great simple butt and core exercises here.

Wall squats facing the wall, to improve your squat and deadlift technique, as long as you don’t have a really long femur (thigh bone) and aren’t built with the height of a pro basket ball player.

Bottoms up These are exercises done with an upsidedown kettlebell, farmer walks with the kb at shoulder height, shoulder press, split squat, reverse lunge. Good quick videos.


I recommend this article as reassurance about food choices, the stress and questioning of carbs.

Well referenced quick read about changing proportions of protein, carb and fat as you age.

A blurb about creatine, although I find I retain water around my middle when I take creatine, it does increase strength. This article has optimum dosage and protocol, all referenced.

Short chain fatty acids available in a healthy eating program. If you eat well, you don’t really need to take time reading this.


Building a bigger back, using a wider grip for bent over row and deadlifts.

Butt work for women. Good exercises, although I like to see the Bulgarian split squat in there

Inspiring reminder of how to think about your training

Like the previous article but for more advanced lifters

Fat Loss:

Managing obesity like a chronic disease a brief and informative article

Benefits of fibre and some motivational affirming food guidance. Easy good read

Benefits of treading water and aqua fit for fat loss and weight maintenance

Great exercise and eating tips for travelers or armchair tourists



Abs Are Made Where?

fitblogOh yeah, that’s me pressing my squeezed fists to make my biceps bulge to magnificent proportions!

Now that I have your attention, I have been reading a lot recently about the work one must do around what one puts in one’s mouth, compared to the time one spends exercising. You know the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen” (or not made in the kitchen I forget). However, as I move forward with the Movable Beast one of my “truths” will be that you will find whole foods here, and whole food advice here, as I work towards my nutritionist qualification. I have recently started pulverizing my own version of protein powder by throwing pumpkin seeds, any nuts that happen to be handy, almonds, walnuts whatever, into the food processor. When I make my morning smoothie, this home made powder ends up providing my vegetable protein, instead of whey protein or other protein powder from sources unknown.

Though I am tempted to buy green powders as well, my jury is still out. I am hoping my handful of kale, some frozen spinach nuggets and maybe some wheat grass (someday) will do the job.

Anyway come to think of it, the stress over food can’t do us any good can it? So just continue to read lots. I like Nutrition Action Healthletter, Consumer Reports On Health, and the Mayo Clinic health letter, and anything else I can get my hands on. I am like a magnet for free-publications-by-the-exit-door. Educate yourself. Eat simply. No junk. Whole grains. different grains, unbleached, unrefined, unprocessed, un-enriched, stone ground. Go on, live a little!

Food Anyone?

When I was a dance student, many decades ago, I had times when, with limited funds, all I could do was subsist on pickles and spaghetti with a little butter on it. This, at the end of a long day seemed like a feast. I have to say that my knowledge of nutrition––and it might be safe to say this of other dancers at the time––was nil. At times I worked in restaurants in the evenings to pay for the days, the rent, food, survival. And those times, I would gorge on anything that passed my way, whether it was a piece of uneaten steak off of some patron’s plate, or a piece of carrot cake scoffed from the dessert fridge, and downed before anyone noticed (although the night watchman did catch me orange-handed, cheeks so full I couldn’t answer his question of “good, eh?” knowing full well that a tattle could end my job) at the end of a late shift.blog3iiMuch of this bad eating was done before the emergence of popular diets; soy milk and ginseng were just making their way into our fridges and cupboards. Still, as dancers, we were usually more concerned with starving ourselves into a classic line that demanded inhuman and cartoon like proportions. How could “not eating” remove five pounds of flesh, and most likely much needed adductor muscle tissue from my inner thigh, and still keep me dancing eight hours a day?

We were young, as a society of eaters back then, and we were young dancers, some of us smoked instead of ate, and others ate and puked.

Today there is indeed an overabundance of information, many, many diets. (I walked into a Chapters recently and nearly had an anxiety attack at the amount and variety of diet books in piles on shelves and tables and walls.) You could probably sit down for half an hour and invent one and credibly sell it online to the waiting masses.

But it is about gut, isn’t it? It’s about trusting your gut feelings. Gotcha. It’s about listening to the voice of reason within. It’s about understanding marketing, selling, being the latest newest thing. I’ve tried various ways of eating (I hate to admit they were diets), and feel that I am coming full circle, the things I like to eat and the way I like to eat them, are nourishing me, and my body. I am for simplicity, unprocessed as much as possible and this equation: add your well being, plus the well being of the planet, plus your means (financially) which all then equal what is logical and reasonable. More on the equation in a follow-up post.

I am currently working on a nutrition diploma and am loving it immensely, the information, the breadth of possibilities of what food can do for me. The resources are endless. But what I am really noticing is the lengths that people will go to get me to eat, read, buy, consume, apply to my body, all in the name of a better me.blog3i

The dance student is long in the past but the questionable habits sometimes resurface as I eat quickly, ravenously, as if I have no idea where the next meal will come from, or hang out a little too long at the free pizza samplings at the deli counter at Sobey’s (on Wednesdays), when store bought pizza is not longer in the equation (refined processed white wheat flour). So, as old habits die hard I will be gentle with myself and my impulses, and take the time to listen to my gut.