Archives for March 2016

Goals and Accountability

goals

How many others out there have vowed to or set out to accomplish something or make a change and have not been able to stick to it? How many of you have uttered the words “I’ll start tomorrow” or “next week I will really start”? Come on, don’t be embarrassed, I know I’ve done it! In fact, I think I do it on a weekly basis.

As an undergraduate, I wrote my thesis on Goal-Setting Theory. Locke & Latham’s Goal-Setting Theory states that in order for someone to work hard towards achieving a goal it has to be specific and challenging (but not too challenging). People who set a specific and challenging goal are much more likely to achieve it than those who set a “do your best” goal.

I often think of this when I take a hard look at my own goal-setting habits and techniques. When it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes, I don’t think that goals should be all-or-nothing big goals. For example, I often set goals that are maybe a bit too challenging (to me), such as “I’m going to work out every day of the week for the next 6 months,”  “I’m going to run a marathon” or “I’m not going to have any sweets for an entire month”. Furthermore, these goals are seriously lacking in specificity. What constitutes a workout? What counts as a sweet? What steps are involved in running a marathon? When I set out to achieve these things, they are simply too challenging and when I am (inevitably) faced with failure, I often just say “well, I’ll try my best”. This is okay, and trying your best is certainly a step in the right direction. However, I would argue that it makes room for excuses and won’t actually lead to achieving a goal or making a lasting change.

With summer coming up, a lot of friends have been asking me for advice on how to reach a goal (running a certain race, fitting back into an old bikini, etc) and I certainly have some for myself as well. A lot of these friends are frustrated because these goals are something they have tried to reach before and haven’t been able to. If you too are trying to achieve something, here is my advice to you:

  • Make your goal specific. Instead of “I’m going to run a marathon” make it something like “I’m going to run a marathon in October, and to get there I am going to start training at the end of May and dedicate 4 days/week to running”. Instead of “I’m going to workout every day of the week for 6 months” make it something like “I am going to work out 7 times a week, where each workout will last 30 minutes”. Instead of “I’m not going to eat any sweets for a month” change it to “I’m not going to eat any sweets that are made from refined sugars or over 250 calories”.
  • Make your goal challenging, but not too challenging.  For me, this means taking a step back and being honest with myself. What is realistic? What do I already do but can improve upon? For instance, I currently run about 3 days a week. This has become a part of my routine and most weeks it is “easy” enough to fit in but sometimes it can still be a challenge. I realize however that training for a marathon involves a little more. Aiming to run an extra day/week is hard because it is more than I already do. But, it is not overly challenging. Instead of saying “I’m not going to eat any sweets for a month” (too challenging), limiting myself to only eating sweets made without refined ingredients will still be a challenge (I LOVE SWEETS) but is more attainable. I can say no to an indulgent sugary easter chocolate bar knowing that I can still eat one of my homemade nut butter cups, or enjoy a few pieces of high quality dark chocolate.

Thirdly, I am going to add an additional point that I find helps me reach a goal just as much as setting specific challenging goals.

  • Hold yourself accountable. Accountability goes a long way when it comes to reaching a goal. Have a friend join you as you reach for your goal. Having support and encouragement through it all makes it easier and you’ll be less likely to give up if someone is right there with you. If you can’t get a friend on board, join a group of like-minded people working towards similar goals and build a community (running with a club helps me immensely with my running goals). Sign up for a bootcamp, take a healthy cooking class, join an online community, there are a lot of groups out there that can help! Talk about it. People who are running marathons are known for this. It’s not about boasting, it’s about making it known so that it’s easier to stick to. If you talk about it, it becomes a part of your regular thought patterns and conversations, serving as a constant reminder to keep with it. Be that annoying person, tell everyone about your goal. Reward yourself. This can be a small reward for every step, or a big reward once you reach the goal. Try and keep these rewards healthy and not food based, especially if your goal is weight loss. For example, it is no secret that I love workout clothes. In the past I have been successful reaching a healthy lifestyle goal if I allow myself to purchase a new piece of active wear at the end of each successful month.

Don’t give up! Setting a goal can be daunting but it should also excite you. Be realistic with yourself but don’t forget that it should be hard! If it wasn’t, you would have already done it. Hang in there and keep pushing!

FREE Yoga!

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Living in Toronto has some serious perks. It is clean, it is full of incredible culinary talent, there is never a shortage of stuff to do, it is diverse, it is full of ravines and parks, it is friendly, there is an endless supply of incredible coffee shops and we are home to the best hockey team in the NHL (just kidding on that last point). I know that since I have never lived anywhere else for a LONG period of time I am a little biased, but I kind of LOVE Toronto. I also love that Toronto is finally starting to be recognized as a “cool” place to visit (thanks Drake) as I have always found myself trying to explain that Toronto is a worthwhile city to visit to my less-than-informed American friends. What I love most about living in this city though? The endless opportunities it provides me with to stay fit and not have to pay a single cent.

It is no secret that I am actively involved in Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club here (not like I talk about it on Instagram or anything…) which is an incredible community to stay active with. However, there are also so many other opportunities out there as well that go beyond Nike. There is literally something for everyone.

I’ve been trying to stay a lot more consistent with my running recently and made a vow to start practicing yoga again so I can take the time to stretch and balance out my tense muscles from increased running mileage. I always knew that Lululemon offered free community yoga classes but for some reason I never actually looked into it.

Well, after speaking to a fellow Nike Run Club member, I felt it was about time I checked out a free yoga class. The class I decided on was the community class at YYoga Queen West, an hour long Flow class that starts at 2:45pm hosted by lululemon.

I would suggest if you check this class out, arrive a good 15 minutes early to claim your spot (you can’t register ahead of time for this class). When I arrived at 2:30, it was clear the class was going to be very busy. The studio is beautiful and guests to the community class are allowed to use the lockers and change rooms. Bring your own yoga mat or rent one for about $2.00. There are also a lot of props (blocks, straps) in the studio that are available to use for free.

The class was packed, but not in a way that hindered movement. I secured a spot near the back of the room as it had been quite some time since I had practiced. The instructor was great, and led us through an energizing vinyasa sequence. The selected music was perfect for this type of class and helped me get into the groove and comfortable with the poses. I was definitely sweating a little bit once we we were deep into our vinyasa, by the time we ended the class in savasana I was feeling so perfectly rested and stretched out. In fact, it was definitely one of the best Flow classes I have ever been to, and it was free!

The instructor did an amazing job of walking around and correcting everyone’s poses when needed, especially given the class size. It was apparent that everyone in the room was more or less familiar with the poses and because of this, I don’t think this would be the ideal class for someone who has never done yoga. However, it wouldn’t be that difficult to follow along if you are new to yoga.

I can’t wait to get back and stretch it out again and look forward to attending as many Saturday community classes as I can!

Check in with your local lululemon to inquire about the free classes they offer. A lot of studios also offer donation-based community classes once a week, a great option for those who may not be able to spring on a class membership.

Toronto is truly great this way, and I know that the Toronto Public Library system and Mountain Equipment Co-op also offers free yoga classes. Stay tuned as well for the schedule of outdoor summer Park Yoga, something I am very much looking forward to attending.

Namaste!

How to Deal- Late Night Snack Attacks

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I don’t know about you, but I have a serious love affair with snacking and always have. I find during the day I am very mindful about what I eat and what snacks I consume. However, once I’m at home, dinner finished, workout done and cuddled up on the couch, my snacking becomes completely mindless. This is a phenomenon that has been observed time and time again so I know that I am not alone in this. Yet, even as someone who is completely conscious of living a healthy lifestyle, that all seems to so quickly fly out the window the second I sit down in front of the TV at night (which I will admit, in the winter it has become a daily thing- I’m not perfect). It doesn’t even matter if I’m full from dinner still- all of the sudden I want to eat EVERYTHING (and usually everything that is bad for me). Today I thought I’d share with you what I do to help combat this:

  • If I’m not hungry and I keep feeling like I need to eat something, I’ll TURN OFF THE TV and go into my bedroom and read. Reading stimulates my mind enough for me to stop thinking about eating ALL THE SNACKS.
  • As soon as I find myself wanting to snack while I watch TV I stop and ask myself “am I really hungry? did I eat enough today?” If I am not really hungry, I’ll drink a big glass of water or make some tea and then reassess. If I realize that I didn’t eat enough, I’ll then consider having a snack. This helps me with make my sense of my snack cravings and makes me conscious of what is going on in my body and mind.
  • I think about how I will feel tomorrow. Sure, a giant bag of bulk candy or a bag of chips may sound great in the moment, but how will I feel after I eat it or the next morning? Chances are, not great. Knowing this and keeping it in mind is sometimes enough to prevent a snack attack.
  • I’ll brush my teeth. Once my teeth are all minty fresh I am less inclined to snack.

IF I must snack simply because my craving is taking over or I really am still hungry, here is how I deal, because let’s get real, I can’t watch “The Bachelor” without a snack…

The key here is to make CONSCIOUS and MINDFUL decisions of what goes in to my body, and yes, I do believe that night time snacking is not always a bad thing and can be a part of a healthy lifestyle:

  • As noted above, I will always try and drink a big glass of water or have a tea first and then see if I still want to snack.
  • I always make sure that I have healthy snacks on hand, so even if I eat a lot of said healthy snack, it won’t throw my body off that much. Preparation is key here. When planning out my meals and writing my weekly grocery list I always include healthy snacks.
  • Keep rich, “healthy” chocolate on hand, a.k.a. NOT Cadbury mini eggs. I can eat a million of those without stopping. However, when I have good, rich, dark and low-sugar chocolate around, I can eat one to three pieces of it and feel totally satisfied.
    • I recommend chocosol or something similar
    • A quick trick to make a healthy chocolate bar in a pinch- melt some coconut oil on the stove top and add cocoa powder and natural sweetener of choice (maple syrup or honey) to taste. Poor into the bottom of a muffin cup or small container and place it in the freezer. In a short period of time you’ll have a delicious creamy chocolate treat!
  • Bake healthy and satisfying “treats” ahead of time to have on hand when you want a snack! Anything packed with healthy fats and superfoods that mock a traditional treat is great:
  • If you’re more of a chips and salty/crunchy kind of snacker, reach for (or make) some of these healthier choices:
    • Popcorn! An air popper is a quick and easy way to make a healthy snack. Popcorn is packed with fibre and when you make it yourself you aren’t going to be eating a bunch of chemicals like the ones found in the microwave varieties. Top with whatever you like- butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, or my personal favourite- nutritional yeast
    • Kale chips as so easy to make (and way cheaper than buying store bought kale chips) and almost taste exactly like potato chips. Follow this recipe and use an oil spray bottle for flawless results
    • Olives are good for you and taste delicious too. Plus, they’re so salty it’s hard to eat too many
    • Pickles- same as above!

If you must indulge in the less-than-good kind of snack (hey, it happens) the key thing to remember is portion control. I know that if I buy a Costco size bag of mini eggs or a family size bag of chips, I will eat the whole thing (it’s not my fault!) so if I do give in to my less-than-ideal cravings, I make sure I only buy a small quantity so I literally can’t eat more than that small amount. Think a mini bag of mini eggs, a snack size bag of chips, a mini cupcake. BUT, always remember, the less you eat these things, the less you want them. Giving into these cravings is a sure fire way to make you crave even more (it’s science guys, I’m not making this up).

I hope this helps those late night snackers like me! Have a great night everyone and happy (healthy) snacking!

Spokehaus T.O.

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It takes a lot to get me out of bed before 7:00am. Even on the most exciting days, it can be tough. However, yesterday I actually got up before 6:00am!! All in the name of a solid sweat session!

A few weeks ago I saw something on social media about a new Spinning studio called Spokehaus that had opened up in Toronto. Fast forward to last week and I finally looked into a little more. They are offering your 1st class for free as a trial so I figured I may as well give it a try! According to their website, Spokehaus promised to be an experience like nothing else:

“We reinvent your typical spin class- the spokehaus workout is a kick-ass, low impact, high intensity full-body cardio party on a bike. We warm you up, work you out and cool you down.

Targeting your core, legs, butt, arms and heart through a series of carefully choreographed movements that will transform your body, your mind and the way you feel about your workout.

Music is at the heart of everything we do.

Every 45 minutes we bring down the house with specially curated playlists that will push you out of your comfort zone and help you get lost in the movement- music that is continually inspiring, motivating and will challenge you to push through each work-out- break free of the daily grind and let us help you find your rhythm.”

Those words were enough to get me to sign up. To me, it sounded a lot like Soul Cycle, which I know has a bit of a cult-like following from my friends in New York. Since we don’t have anything like Soul Cycle here, I think Spokehaus has a chance at being really successful in Toronto. An experience it was!

I used to take group cycling classes back in University and in recent years have been a big LesMills RPM fan. I find a cycling class is a really good way to balance other workouts with running. It’s a killer cardio workout, amazing for your legs and core and a good way to “flush out” my legs after a week of running many kilometres.

Needless to say, when Happy Hubs and I walked in to Spokehaus, located at City Place, at 10 to 7:00am yesterday, I was feeling pretty confident about getting through an early morning sweat session and assumed I knew what the class would more or less entail.

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The front of the studio is bright and simple, with lockers (no lock needed, they are all keyless and you can set your own code) and a big open reception area (including that fun light sign pictured above). We were greeted by a very friendly young woman who gave us cycling shoes, this is a clip-in class but shoes are provided. Shortly after, we walked into the studio with our Instructor, Courtney, a bubbly brunette who was exactly the right level of enthused for a Monday morning (anything TOO enthusiastic can be a bit too much sometimes, but especially early in the morning). It was at this moment that I realized this was going to be anything BUT a normal Spin class. The studio was dark, except for a handful of large candles in front of Courtney’s bike, something I appreciated as I was still struggling to keep my eyes open.

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That all changed the minute the music started. I suddenly felt like I was at an uber-cool club and I wasn’t sure if I was asleep and maybe still dreaming. After a track or two I knew I was definitely awake as I was sweating my face off. In fact, I don’t think I can remember a time in recent history when I have sweat that much. Courtney led us through the tracks (top 40 EDM remixes) and we did everything you’d expect in a cycling class- sprints, climbs, standing sprints, heavy resistance etc. What I liked about the class however, and something that I haven’t experienced in previous cycling classes, is that most of the tracks included some sort of upper-body work. We did a lot of different push-up type movements over the handlebars and one track was even pure upper body. We used small hand weights and sat upright while Courtney led us through bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder presses etc. I will admit, I am pretty fit and scoffed a little bit at the 2lb weights when I first picked them up- but my arms were burning by the end of this track. We cycled on home to an angry Eminem song and then were all handed cool wet towels with eucalyptus oil which was an amazing treat and the perfect energizing and cooling boost I needed after such an intense sweat.

I exited, surprised that it was sunny and bright outside the studio as I had honestly forgotten whether it was day or night. Spokehaus sells juices and Kombucha from Greenhouse Juice Co. and I couldn’t resist a “Root Beer” Kombucha. Not too sweet, and just the right amount of root flavour. The changerooms are bright and clean (although a bit small) and filled with great natural bath and body proucts for guest use.

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I left feeling so glad I had forced myself out of bed at 6:00am for the class. It was a great experience and what really made it stand out was that it was a total body workout- not something I’m used to from a spin class. The music was great, the atmosphere was super fun, and the extra little touches went a long way. And they should- at $28 for a drop-in class you’d expect something different, fun, luxurious and a killer workout. I don’t know if I’ll be back- not because I didn’t love it (I did), I just probably (and unfortunately) can’t stomach a class that is fairly steeply priced. If I had more money, I would find it easier as it is worth it, it’s just a shame that the cost makes it a little elitist (but I think that is what they are going for here, and I know Soul Cycle has faced the same criticism).

Spokehaus is still offering you to come try your 1st class free for a limited time though so if you want to check it out head on over to their website and prepare to sweat your face off!

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