Nike Training Club Canada- “Nearly Impossible Alone, Totally Possible Together”

My friends in New York City have been telling me for a couple years about their experiences with Nike Training Club. When they initially told me they attended free NTC classes at NYU I truly didn’t believe them. I thought they must be paying for it somehow in their tuition. They described these classes to me as a total-body workout involving metabolic conditioning in a super fun and motivating group environment all run by amazing NTC trainers. It seemed almost too good to be true. Still, I was envious that we didn’t have any NTC classes in Toronto when my friends explained this all to me.

Well, as of September I started seeing things about NTC Canada on Facebook. I clicked on the page and I didn’t see any info on any classes. However, a few weeks later an event for a NTC class popped up on my feed! I investigated and found out that all you have to do is write “count me in” on the wall of the event page. I was still a little skeptical and thought there must be some sort of catch. However, I decided to give it a go and attend a Saturday class and convinced my sister to join me. The classes are being offered at  http://academyoflions.com which is located at 64 Ossington Ave (Ossington and Queen West) in Toronto, a good trek from my eastern suburb, but after the raving reviews from my friends in NYC I decided it was worth the journey.

We arrived and checked in and sure enough, there really was no catch, it was definitely free!  The Academy of Lions gym is a neat space, and I didn’t feel intimidated being there (which is a feeling I have felt upon walking into other crossfit gyms). In fact, the atmosphere made me pretty excited (which is hard to feel knowing a gruelling workout is in front of you). We walked up the stairs to their second floor which has walls covered in NTC quotes and of course, tons of swoosh symbols.  There was loud, trendy music playing and I really couldn’t wait to get moving. All in all, there were at least 40 girls there (and a few brave men! YAY to them!!) We met our fun, itty-bitty, cheerful coach, Jenn Thompson (who’s body was all the motivation I really needed) and started a warm up. The warm up consisted of a nice mix of cardio and dynamic movements going from one side of the room to the other. Then, the hard stuff got under way. The whole class was a solid mix of intervals involving some plyometic movements, crunches and the like, combined with a circuit that we completed in teams as a relay. I really loved the circuit part of it all. One team member went at a time and went through 10 reps at each station (weighted lunges, dips, rows, burpies, squat jumps) and then held a plank at the end. The next person would start, and then release the team mate holding the plank at the end once they got there, who would then run back to the team members and send the next person. It was a lot of fun, and having a team to cheer me on really kept me going! The best part was that while we were waiting we were not just standing around. Jenn had us doing squats or jumping jacks and as soon as we started slacking, we were all down for 10 push-ups.

My only criticism of the whole experience is that I saw a lot of people rushing through their movements with less than optimal form in order to make their team win. However, Jenn was pretty good at fixing this- and given the class size, it would have been a lot of work to make sure every single person was doing the moves properly. For this reason, I wouldn’t say this would be the best class to attend if you are a total newbie to working out, but at the same time, I would still encourage newbies to the fitness world to check it out just because it was so fun and motivating!

All in all, I had an absolute blast! I really wish I lived closer to take full advantage of these free classes offered 3 times a week! I love the team environment and the completely female friendly easy going attitude I felt from everyone. I sweat like a pig, had fun, and left feeling accomplished. Not to mention, there is a cute little coffee bar right in the gym where I enjoyed a wonderful coconut milk latte after the class (why do more coffee shops in Toronto not offer coconut milk as an option?) It really was the perfect way to spend the first half of my Saturday. I mean, a good workout AND good coffee, what’s not to love?

Check out the classes! Just head on over to https://www.facebook.com/niketrainingclubcanada/app_233752330117269

Click on the drop down menu where it says “Train with NTC” and then select “Events.” That will take you to a page with all of the listed classes. Be sure to sign up early, they fill up fast! Make sure you write “Count me in” on the event wall in order to be registered. The best part? You can attend as many classes as you wish!

I hope to see some of you there next time I go!

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Squats for Subway Rides

Squats for Subway Rides

(click the title for video link)

This is AMAZING!

This video has been making it’s rounds today on social media sites but I just wanted to share it here as well. For those who have yet to see it, there has been a machine installed in the subway system in Moscow, Russia that allows passengers to trade 30 squats for a free subway ride! This has been put in place to promote the upcoming 2014 winter games. What I love about it however is that is promotes physical health as well! This is seriously genius, and so innovative! I think if we did this in Toronto you would see people squatting everywhere! This speaks a lot about how to incorporate small amounts of activity into daily life, and besides that, who doesn’t love free stuff?

It reminds me a lot of the video featuring the piano stairs that encouraged people to walk up the stairs.

Think we can convince Ford to do something like this?

Simply Magic Gluten Free Chocolately “clean” Granola Bars

Greetings Everyone!

Those who know me, know that I am not a big supporter of the packaged food industry. I try and avoid packaged foods as much as possible. Do you read the ingedients list of packaged foods? If so, you know as I do that the majority of packaged foods contain at least 1 of these as the first couple ingredients, if not all; wheat, sugar, soy, and corn. Since I believe no one should be eating refined sugars and I am fairly certain I’m allergic to both wheat and soy, packaged foods are pretty much out of the question for me (both because of what I believe in and also because of my poor stomach).

However, this can definitely be a challenge sometimes. Especially as a student with a job who is constantly on the go. Sometimes I really just wish I had that cheap packaged (insert “food” product here) to grab on my way out the door.

Another thing to point out is that buying packaged health food products are ridiculously expensive- up to 3 or more times the price of the conventional stuff!!

Yesterday a classmate pulled out a granola bar. “That looks so good” I said, “I have another,” she told me, “take it.” I had to decline but every last bit of me wanted to eat it- even knowing that I would pay for it in stomach pains later.

So, when I came home from class I went on a mission to create the perfect wheat free, no refined sugar yet still sweet, “healthy” granola bar. What resulted was the following recipe. I am quite proud of it and I think you’d like to too if you give it a go!

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This recipe can be made with less of the sweet stuff to make a little healthier (and I think next time I’d do this as these bars turned out quite sweet!) by cutting back on the maple syrup, honey and coconut sugar. Each bar has about 150 calories, 6.7g of fat, 4g of belly filling fibre, 9g of sugar, and 5g of protein. I wouldn’t recommend pigging out on these bad boys because of the high-ish sugar content but they are definitely a lot better for you and full of more natural ingredients than the store bought variety, and will satisfy your hunger more as well. They are perfect for a small snack with your afternoon coffee or tea when you just need a bit of a pick me up!

 

Ingredients:

2 cups certified gluten free rolled oats

1/4 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup sunflower seeds, unsalted

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1/4 cup chia seeds (any variety is fine)

4 tbsp ground flax seed

4 tbsp whole flax seed (I like to do half and half to get the Omega 3’s and the fibre)

1/4 cup ground pecans (you can used chopped as well, I just had ground in the house)

1-2 chopped apples

2 scoops Vega One Chocolate protein powder (you could just use a few tablespoons of cocoa)

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup pure honey

1/4 cup butter (or butter substitute like coconut oil or earth balance spread to make this vegan)

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup coconut palm sugar

1 tbsp sea salt

 

Pre-heat oven to 450. Combine first 10 ingredients in bowl then distribute evenly on baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt. Roast ingredients at 450 for 20 minutes (I like mine quite crispy so this time could be lessened).

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While mix is roasting, combine honey, maple syrup, butter and coconut sugar in saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add in vanilla. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Stir in protein powder.

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When mix is done roasting combine dry ingredient and wet ingredients in a large bowl. Grease a spatula and a baking sheet and use spatula to press combined mixture into baking sheet, pressing firmly. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.  Use a sharp knife to cut into bar shaped portions. Be careful to press down firmly in order to keep bars from breaking.

I like to freeze them so they keep longer.

feel free to experiment with these and make them your own creation! The possibilities are literally endless!

 

 

 

Me!

Hey everyone!

Well, this is my very first time ever writing a blog so bear with me!

Who am I?

My name is Alison (Ali) and I am currently a Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion grad student at Centennial College in Toronto, Ontario.

Favourite way to sweat?

LesMills BodyPump, BodyAttack or RPM

Favourite vegetable?

Kale

Favourite fruit?

It’s a 3 way tie between pomegranates, avocados and raspberries

Favourite beverage?

COFFEE

Why am I here?

The short story: To talk about wellness with anyone who is interested. Mainly, I like to discuss fitness, nutrition, mental health and wellness in the workplace. It is my hope that I can provide readers with recipes, reviews about all things wellness in Toronto (and beyond!) and discuss ideas and thoughts surrounding these subjects.

The long story: I used to write, a lot. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, you name it. Then, I went away to University. I wrote a lot there too, but mainly things like research papers, statistic reports and then my biggest piece of writing to date- an undergraduate thesis. But that stuff was boring, I didn’t have time to write the fun stuff for myself anymore.

Through University I found myself struggling with crippling bouts of depression and anxiety. I think a lot of students go through this but society teaches us to keep it to ourselves, and I did. There is nothing as poisonous as the self-stigma we put on ourselves and I felt entirely alone. Anyone who has been through University knows it is a fight. I felt like I was swimming upstream through the rapids for most of my time as an undergraduate, barely staying afloat.

After a horrendous breakup, a friend of mine suggested I join her in a kickboxing class. Her words were “because visualizing his face must be good for something”. She was right, and man did it feel good. This was kind of a turning point in my life. I was shocked to realize just how much a good workout could affect my mood. I wish I could say it was right then that my whole life became perfect and I started going to the gym every day. (I will disclose this now- my life is still not perfect and I still don’t workout every day, and that’s okay!).  However, from that point on, I decided that fitness was going to be a part of my life. I made it through my undergrad, working out as much as I could and really finding myself benefitting from a group fitness environment. While at that time I would have loved to be active every day, I could only manage about 3 days a week- yet those 3 days a week are what I truly believe kept me afloat through it all.

When I graduated, I was sure glad all that stress was over. Unfortunately, as a new graduate I found the world to be overwhelming, and the employment market a huge source of discouragement. I always thought that when I left school, my life would fall into place and I would never feel anxious or depressed again. “Real life” left me with a lot of free time on my hands and an even bigger serving of disillusionment. I had never really been overweight in my life, and I considered my eating habits to be fairly healthy, but I also wasn’t exactly athletic and toned. The months following my graduation lead to a few things, a sense of complacency in a terrible serving job, and about 20 pounds on my small frame.

Around that time I met my wonderful partner Zach. Zach is many things to me- my biggest cheer leader, my support system, my road trip buddy, my best friend and my rock. Being in a new relationship is always an exciting time- but I wouldn’t say it was a driving force in my health goals. In fact, it was kind of the opposite. Zach has made it very clear from the get-go that he thinks I am beautiful. It is hard to stay focused on eating well and working out when you have a sexy man telling you that you always look amazing, no matter what. Here’s the kicker to our story- Zach lives 830km away from me. This has had it’s challenges over the years we have been together, but also has had many benefits. I ended up losing my serving job (a huge blow to my ego) and therefore, I didn’t have an income to afford to go visit him. He was struggling himself and we had a period of being apart for quite some time- this wasn’t a pretty time in my life and was a big contributing factor to this post-graduation 20 pounds.

Instead of hiding away in a blanket of depression I started to dedicate my extra time to fitness and changing my eating habits. As I said, I had never been one to eat terribly unhealthy, but something had to change. The key for me was also realizing how much a healthy active lifestyle affected my mood. I began to workout at least 5 days a week with a healthy combination of strength training and cardio group fitness classes. I eliminated all refined and processed foods out of my diet. I started to feel amazing. I dropped nearly 20 pounds in 5 months. Around this same time, I was realizing that I needed to make another big change in my life. I realized I needed to go to graduate school in order to find a career that fulfilled me. I had been an “A” student during my undergraduate career but I still wasn’t quite cut out to pursue a masters in clinical psychology like I once thought I would. I applied to a few M.A. counseling programs thinking I would like to help people through therapeutic means. Yet, something was holding me back. What I thought I wanted and what I actually wanted didn’t seem to match up anymore. However, I didn’t even know exactly what it was that I wanted. I searched and searched and searched until I stumbled upon health promotion programs. I thought about an M.Sc. in Health Promotion. I thought about Organizational Psychology, but I gagged at the thought of dedicating 2 years of my life to research. I still knew I wanted to help people, I just didn’t know what medium I would do this through. I have worked as a summer camp counsellor and I get an immense amount of satisfaction from mentoring and motivating people. I started to help my friends change their lifestyles as well, and the fulfillment I gained from helping others out in this capacity was immensely gratifying. This is also when I discovered the WWHP program at Centennial. I read through the course descriptions and through the career options. I was thirsty for more information. I contacted graduates of the program and spoke to them about what they were doing now. I didn’t even know that workplace wellness existed! Everything sort of fell into place for me. I slowly started wrapping my head around the fact that I could help people in the workplace, I could even help with mental health in the workplace, and I could do it all through my passion for exercise and nutrition.

To me, health is not just about getting through life and avoiding or fighting off illness. Health is about being present in life, it is about preventing diseases (mental and physical) and it is about  fostering our ability to live life to it’s fullest. I believe that our physical and mental states are so much more connected then we realize. I believe what we put in our bodies dictates so much of our lives and affects our mental and physical health the same way that exercise (or lack of exercise) does. I believe that in our society we do not treat our bodies with the respect they deserve. Instead, we work them to the ground and in the process destroy our mental and physical well-being and develop chronic illnesses. The biggest culprit of encouraging this behaviour is a place where we spend most of our time- the workplace. I think this is all preventable if only we have the information and motivation to change our lifestyles. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change. It doesn’t have to be a wake-up-at 5am-every-day-to-run change, it doesn’t even mean avoiding chocolate at all costs. It just means doing the best we can, day to day, to incorporate wellness into our lives. 

 

So to come full circle, here I am studying wellness and pursuing a career where I can do exactly what I mentioned above. I love researching about wellness, I love hearing about wellness, I love sharing the messages, I love participating in wellness initiatives. And I REALLY love writing about wellness. Writing has become fun and enjoyable to me again for the first time since high school. Through my writing about wellness I want to share my passion with all of you. Since fitness and nutrition are my biggest passions when it comes to health promotion and wellness I will be sharing a lot of information about those domains of health here, but I will also be sharing information on just about anything in the wellness field. So stick around and read what you can. I hope I can help you head towards a life full of well-being and health, or at least get the wheels turning to help you live your life the best way you can!