Fitness: Changing it up for the Summer

Summer is here! and I haven’t been to the gym in about 3 weeks *gasp!*.

The last couple of years of going to the gym and working out using circuit training or a group exercise class, I found that it can get a little boring after a while.  In the summer, I want to spend as much time outside as possible, which makes it the perfect time to change it up and make fitness fun.

In the last 3 weeks, I have ditched the gym and found other ways to burn calories.  I’d like to share them with you, because summer is the perfect time to switch it up and find new ways to be active, to new things and even meet new people.

SUMMER BOOT CAMP

Participating in a boot camp workout is a way to get intense cardio and strength training.  During the summer months, many of the boot camp programs held are outside – so you can also get your tan on.  The boot camp programs I have tried allow you to pay for a period of time or sessions so you can commit yourself to a specific time each week.

Here are some bootcamp programs that I have participated in the Toronto area:

Fit Chicks, Various locations across GTA, $120 to $298

Fit Chicks is a women’s only boot camp that has classes across the Greater Toronto area.  They offer outdoor session during the summer with 4 and 8 week programs.

Last year, I tried a 4 week program at High Park.  It was easy to get to, with a small class size of about 10 people with a really great instructor.

Toronto Fit Factory Fitness, Monarch Park and Yonge and Wellesley, Toronto $30 to $1000

Fit Factory is the latest boot camp I have tried.  I took advantage of their 30 days for $30 promotion.  This program is perfect for the summer because all I need for bootcamp is a month, then I can move on to other outdoor activities for the rest of the season.  Fit Factory also has monthly memberships for those looking for something long term.

Out of the two boot camp programs that I have tried, Fit Factory is definitely the most challenging. I would recommend both programs, but for those who want the most intense workout in a short period of time, I would suggest Fit Factory and you can’t go wrong with the 30 days for $30 promotion.

Other ways to switch it up for the summer:

Getting involved in sports like swimming, tennis or paddle boarding.  Check out your local YMCA for fitness programs or find a listing of Tennis courts (which are free for use) and get out there and play.  Summer is the perfect opportunity to get involved in the sports you have always wanted to try, or the ones that you used to play in school, like beach volleyball at Ashbridges Bay Beach, basketball, baseball or soccer.  Almost every community has adult leagues where anyone at any level can play and have fun as well as work places that have organized team sports.

OUTDOOR YOGA

What would be more perfect than outdoor yoga?  There are yoga studios all across the GTA, but let’s check out the ‘no excuses’ classes.  By ‘no excuses’ I mean, you can get outside in the great weather and it’s FREE – so there’s no excuse not to try it.

Harbourfront Centre has free Yoga sessions every Thursday at 6:30 starting June 26.  I attended the first session last Thursday and they had a really great turn out.  Each week, they will focus on the practice of yoga with a specific emphasis on yoga for the heart, for runners, and for stress management.

There’s free Yoga in High Park every Sunday at 10am and I can’t forget Yogapalooza that will also be held at Harbourfront Centre on August 16 and 17.

RUNNING OR WALKING

The easiest of them all!  Just lace up and hit the pavement.  You can do it before work, on your lunch, after work or on the weekend.  The best part is to find a magical place to walk or run. The lakeshore, from Toronto’s east end to Mississauga’s Port Credit is the perfect place to get a good run or walk, along beautiful scenery.

The possibilities are unlimited – because you can participate in marathons, bike rides, fitness or charity challenges.  It’s all up to us to find these opportunities and take advantage of them to better bodies and our minds.

I hope everyone has a fun and active summer.  It’s a short season, so let’s make the best of it!

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New Season, New Goals

The start of Spring has brought some new goals I wasn’t anticipating…

A friend asked me to participate in a 5k run in support of the Youth Life International Relief and I agreed.  The YLIR is a non-profit charitable organization from Toronto that focuses on improving the life of children in rural areas of developing countries through development and rehabilitation of their communities.  The run will be on May 31, 2014 in High Park, which was even more reason to agree to participate.

I have decided to create a running plan in preparation of the event.  I’ve ran before, but not consistently.  This race will be great means to start running and keep running. This new challenge came at a perfect time considering the weather is starting to warm up and it will be a great way for me to enjoy the outdoors and find new ways to exercise outside of the gym.

Since I made the commitment to do this run, I have been reading about running. From what I have found out so far, preparing for a run is not just about lacing up and hitting the pavement.  Training includes easing into a program by walking, running and resting.  Regular exercise is extremely important for core strength, posture, muscle recovery, preventing injury and burn out.  I will be implementing my running training alongside my regular gym schedule and when I am not training, I will focus on doing classes like Body Pump and Yoga.  I have started doing CXWORX again as it is a class that focuses on building core strength.  I am more comfortable spinning, so I will continue with spinning in RPM classes or supplement on days where I can’t run.

Food and Nut

After some research, the below will be the foods I will make sure to consume while training:

  • Calcium rich foods to promote bone strength including milk, cheese and broccoli
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Vitamin C rich foods like bell peppers, orange and kale
  • Leafy greens
  • Fat Free Yogurt
  • Black beans
  • Salmon
  • Almonds

Run El Sup

I am keeping it simple with the running gadgets:

  • I have downloaded the app RunKeeper to track calories and create running routes
  • I am considering purchasing a Fitbit, perhaps if I find it necessary as I progress in the training plan

Run Fash

My favourite part!  New threads!  I was listening to Dragonette’s Run Run Run as I was making this board.  I am used to high intensity work outs and I know what I like to wear that keeps me comfortable: form fitting bottoms, full support bras, comfortable shoes, and breathable tops.  Since I will be outdoors more often, I have to make sure that I have protection against the sun, headbands to keep my hair out of my face, and an easy way to carry my phone while in movement.Run Run RunThe plan starts Monday March 31, 2014, officially.  Every week has a theme that will help me focus.  See my 5K running plan below.  I have printed it and have it posted at my work desk and in my bedroom to keep me motivated.  It is based on a 7 week program, but since I have 9 weeks until the race, I will start the first two weeks of the plan warming up using a treadmill.  I have found some beginner treadmill routines via PopSugar Fitness.

here

Since this is my first run/race, I appreciate any wisdom from those who have completed a 5K run/race.  Please comment and share your advice on running/training strategies and food choices that worked for you.

Thanks for reading, I look forward to sharing all of my experiences preparing and completing my first 5K run.

The Early Rise to Work Out

Wake Up Sleepy Head!The alarm sounds at 4:45am.  If you’re like me, the shrill sound of the buzzer usually results in an unconscious smack to the snooze button.  Well, my alarm clock didn’t get the beating this morning.  The alarm went off at 4:45am and I got up, determined to get to the gym before work.

Like everyone else, work takes up the majority of my day and when work ends, I turn into a part-time student or a practicing musician, then there’s housework, eating, sleeping and of course, sharing my ideas through this blog.   Fitness is just as important as all of these tasks, but at times it can be overwhelming to balance all within a busy schedule.

Getting up early to go to the gym has been one of those things that I have contemplated doing for a long time.  I knew it would be challenging to implement, but as my schedule has been getting busier, I’ve learned that it may hurt at first, but the pain will eventually bring some gain.

I’ve been reading a lot about the early rise to exercise, and why it’s beneficial:

  • Exercising in the morning boosts metabolism, increases energy levels and gets your brain activity going – a great start to the day
  • Getting your workout done in the morning frees up your evening hours to accomplish any remaining tasks at hand
  • No more after work excuses:  I’m too tired, stressed or out of time because I’ve had to work late
  • Continuing the early rise will… (gasp!) slowly turn me into a perpetual early morning riser

I believe if I can do this, anyone can – it’s all about being prepared:

  • Pre-pack! it’s hard enough to get up that early, it will be harder knowing you have to put your things together at such an early hour.  The night before, pack everything you will need (lunch, toiletries, work clothes) for the next day so you can get up and go
  • Sleep in your gym clothes – you will simply have to roll out of bed, brush your teeth, wash your face and head out
  • Get 7-8 hours sleep each night (something I need to improve on)
  • Rewards!  Reward yourself for each time you’ve completed each day or a full week of rising early.  There’s a Starbucks near my gym, so this morning I treated a coffee

I constantly remind myself that my health is a priority.  I make ways to fit physical activity into my schedule by creating new habits that will eventually turn into behaviours.

Winter Warmth for the Commute to the Gym

I dedicate this post to all of the North American groundhogs, who could not come to a consensus on whether or not we will have having early Spring-like weather or if we will be facing another 6 weeks frigid temperatures.

Since it was a three way tie between the hogs across Canada and in the US, we can believe the opinion of the groundhog that is most credible, or we could listen to Environment Canada’s prediction: more cold weather through the rest of February.

This forecast is the perfect segway for this post because commuting in cold weather can be a bummer.   When I commute to the gym it is usually before/after work, before my music lessons or band practice.  This usually involves me out in the snow, blowing wind, ice, puddles and slush.  It’s so easy to say it’s way too cold, but when it comes down to it, there’s ALWAYS going to be something that is going to deter us from getting to the gym.  It’s best to be prepared with the right gear that keeps us warm and comfortable during the journey.  So, when the next polar vortex comes along, blowing wind and snow in your face in a very mean, old man winter sort of way; you can zig-zag snap and say nuh uh polar vortex, I got this! (You have to do the zig zag snap, or else the whole thing loses it’s effect).warm

  • I prefer to wear Tights or Leggings while I workout.  A form fitting bottom (full length or cropped) stays put and for me, is the most comfortable to move around in.
  • I like to throw on a pair of sweat pants on top of the leggings for an added layer warmth.  They can be quickly removed or kept on until you’re warm.  Sweat pants made of woven materials like cotton or fleece add extra protection against cold wind.
  • A long sleeved running shirt can be thrown on top of a racer back tank for added protection.  It can be kept on for low intensity classes like yoga and removed after a warm up.
  • Winter accessories like a hat, scarf, pair of mittens and wool socks are necessities (you know that already).  Nothing is worse than cold hands and feet.  This season I invested in a pair of North Face cable knit mittens.  In the past, I’ve worn The Bay’s red mittens, which are very warm (and only $10).
  • The most important item, a well insulated coat.  I included a Canada Goose coat in the image because I really want one (wink).  For those of us who can’t afford a $600-1700+ coat, there are many other brands that provide warmth at a lower cost.  I recently purchased a North Face Brooklyn Jacket and it has proven to be very warm.  I always say if you can afford it, a good winter coat is a great investment as you can wear it for seasons to come.
  • Nothing makes me angrier than cold wet feet.  A good quality pair of winter boots and rainboots will keep you from getting that miserable look on your face when your feet get wet.  I’ve had Sorel Joan of Arctic boots for 2 years now.  They are great for walking through deep snow and for spending long periods of time outside.  When there’s a thaw, prancing around in a water tight rubber rainboot is great protection from puddles and slush.

Now we know that hibernation is not an option! The best ways to survive the winter are to invest, embrace and stay active:

  1. Invest in good quality winter gear and dress appropriately for the temperature.
  2. Get outside during the day when the sun is shining!  A little sunshine during the day will help lift your spirits.  Take a look at the scenery.  Winter can be kind of pretty.
  3. Stay active and get involved in winter sports.  I love ice skating!

We’ve made it this far.  Spring is just over a month away.

Gym Bag Essentials

It’s January and the fitness craze has begun!  I was out shopping today and noticed most clothing retailers had their active wear merchandised front of shop, targeting those who have chosen fitness as a resolution for the new year.

When I made the decision to commit myself to being more physically active, it was hard (and still is a challenge) to schedule work out time.  I go to school part time, work full time, love spending time with my friends and family, I also take music lessons and play bass guitar in a band.

Making time to squeeze in a daily workout requires desire, commitment, time management and most importantly, preparation!

Being prepared means having a gym bag filled with all of the goodies that I need to have a comfortable workout, as well as the items that I need to prepare myself for the rest of my day.

Here’s a list of my gym bag essentials:

bag

  1. Adidas Strength Duffel Bag. A gym bag – very essential, right?  My bag must have storage compartments, ventilated areas for shoes and clothes, and of course, it must be durable and easy to carry.  Right now, I am on the hunt for a gym bag with the same features above, but is also washable.
  2. Secret Invisible Solid Deodorant.  Helps me keep fresh and smelling lovely while I’m sweating buckets!
  3. Yes to Cucumbers On the Go Facial Towelettes.   I really try to avoid wearing makeup while working out.  It is not good for the pores and the dripping makeup/pancake face is not a good look!  The YTC Towelettes are gentle, remove the majority of makeup, they don’t have a harsh perfume and the package has a resealable flap that makes them easy to travel with.
  4. Nivea Hydro Care Lip Balm.   This lip balm is the best that I’ve tried as it provides long lasting moisture.
  5. Flip Flops.  For fear of germs, I refuse to step into a gym shower without a pair of flip flops! You can get a pair of flip flops from stores like Old Navy or Joe Fresh for under $10.
  6. Brita Water Bottle.  One of my favourite fitness purchases of 2013.  It’s travel friendly and I can get filtered water no matter where I am!  The best part is it makes me a bit of an environmental super hero because I don’t buy those wasteful plastic bottles of water *flexes super hero muscle*.
  7. Goody Headbands.   These ouchless bands keep ‘the beast’ that is my hair out of my face.  I have a lot of hair so I like to pull it back or up in a puff while working out.  Each headband is durable for 3-5 uses (they eventually get stretched out).
  8. Nivea Creme.   Nivea is my favourite brand of face and body cream.  My skin is very dry especially in the winter, so I like intense moisture.  This product is great for moisturizing before and after a workout.
  9. Lululemon The Small Towel.  When I bought this towel, I asked the sales associate how to justify an $18 piece of fabric? (mainly because…I’m one of those difficult customers).  I bought it anyway and it has become my favourite towel to use either on a yoga mat or as a face towel.  It is absorbent and very easy to wash.
  10. Toiletry Bag.  Great for bringing soap, makeup, a toothbrush, face wash or any other toiletries needed to get a fresh face on after the gym.
  11. Reusable Bag.  Store dirty clothes, towels, flip flops and anything else that should be separated from the other essentials in my bag.
  12. Headphones.  This is an essential item as there is nothing more important than listening to some motivating music while working out.
  13. Pad Lock.   Do not leave your belongings in an unlocked locker!  I’ve been to so many fitness centres where I have seen phones, iPods, clothing and shoes in unlocked lockers.  Protect your stuff by purchasing a pad lock.  If you can’t get to a store to purchase, many gyms have pad locks for purchase at their front desk.

Quite a few items, but each so very important to create a comfortable workout and ensure that I can easily prepare myself for the rest of my day.  I find that preparing my bag the night before makes it easier to grab n’ go in the morning.

What are your gym bag essentials?