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!

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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Life happens while you’re busy making other plans

My aim is to keep this blog less about me and more about topics we can all related to. However, there has been so much going on in my personal life lately (hence the hiatus) that I can’t help but share and gush a little bit.

That being said, my days have been jam packed with so many great things I am just exploding with joy. First of all, I had an amazing weekend a few weeks back celebrating my dear friend’s (The Rosetto Blog) bachelorette in Prince Edward County. It was such a special weekend to be a part of and Emily’s happiness was so contagious. What a great group of women go hang out with! Also, if you haven’t been to Prince Edward County before, add it to your list (I’m already eyeing the drake Devonshire for our first year anniversary, I know, that’s over a year away but wishful thinking right?)

Beautiful Bride (in the middle)

Beautiful Bride Emily (in the middle)

Shortly after, Zach and I moved into our very own brand new condo. This move has been long overdue but with crazy wedding costs and a period of unemployment for both of us we wanted to wait until we were sure we could afford a place we really liked and enjoyed living in (read: a home, no cheap student housing) and still have some wiggle room for life so we delayed it. It was worth it! We found the most perfect place and have had so much fun making it a home (OUR home). We are obsessed with our neighborhood and it’s so amazing to live so close to quite a few childhood friends as well as my dad. Plus, I can walk to work! How great is that? Not to mention, the view…

Our View

Our View

Did I mention how fun decorating is? While we are still on a strict wedding budget we have been able to find some great pieces and Zach made some of our furniture which was a big money saver. I’m looking forward to getting rid of my university bed and really making the place homey and our dream over the next few months.

Zach's amazing DIY media stand

Zach’s amazing DIY media stand

Home sweet Home

Home sweet Home

Our kijiji Urban Barn find

Our kijiji Urban Barn find

Shortly after the big move my  (amazing!) friends held two wedding showers for me. I’m so spoiled! The first one was from a group of girls I have known since kindergarten and was a total surprise. A few of the girls couldn’t make it to the bigger shower so they orchestrated the perfect Tuesday night affair with sushi, prosseco, cupcakes and of course a homemade tiara. It was so humbling and amazing, even more so because I had NO idea.

The best of friends :)

The best of friends 🙂

Surprise!

Surprise!

The second one was the larger shower of the non-surprise variety which was just as special. It’s so great to see so many people I love from different areas of my life all interact together. Having so many people get together to celebrate you brings about so many emotions. It’s so special to see how much people support me and Zach. I will be honest when I say it is a little weird though. Don’t get me wrong, everyone loves a party but it is a little hard to sit there and realize all the focus is on you- more than a few times I thought to myself “how do I deserve this!!?”.  I guess it’s just practice for the wedding!

How talented is my friend!? Yes this is homemade!

Amazing (angel) Bridesmaid Masterminds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and my Mum

It’s all in the details

(I’ve had a lot of questions and compliments about my dress, this is it here. I will also add that I’ve bought quite a few things from them, just make sure you read the sizing information and reviews and you’ll be fine)

And now, this is taking over my life:

Crafts on Crafts

Crafts on Crafts

I don’t want to give too many details away to the guests but the crafting is taking over our condo. Luckily I’ve had some amazing bridesmaid/friend elves who have been helping. DIYing your wedding is a great money saver but don’t kid yourself – it takes TIME. I see a few sleepless nights in my future as I finish all this up.

Thanks for reading everyone. My next post will be back to the regular wellness stuff, I promise 🙂

Beer + Running = unbeatable combination

If you’re like me, you may struggle to be active on the weekends. Don’t get me wrong, I usually do a lot of walking, exploring, visiting friends or just running errands but I really struggle to intentionally workout for the purpose of working out. I find that especially in the summer, I don’t exactly want to schedule a workout on the weekend when I’d much rather be sitting on a patio with a delicious beer.

What if I told you in this wonderful city of ours there is a way you can schedule in some exercise AND drink some great beer? Would you be more inclined to be active on the weekend? I know that the idea certainly sounds great to me!

Over the last few months, RunTOBeer (get it? TO as in T.O. as in Toronto and also as in “we are literally running to beer”) started liking pretty much any post of mine on social media that mentioned running. I honestly didn’t pay much attention until I recently actually clicked on their profile. I definitely was sorry that I hadn’t clicked on it sooner!

The premise of RunTOBeer is to combine the social aspects of running with the great craft beer scene we have in this city. SIGN ME UP. The group is organized by Toronto runners Dan Grant and Tej Sandhu.

On Canada Day, I laced up my sneakers after two weeks off post Nike 15k (I’ve also been battling a terrible cold) and joined the group for a 5k run to the Evergreen Brickworks, the host site of the Brewer’s Backyard. The group was fun, encouraging, and it was great to meet some like-minded people who obviously weren’t there to impress and were just looking for a fun way to be active. We all had the same end goal in mind – delicious beer! I will say, this was not an easy 5k for me but the thought of beer definitely kept me going!

While I was definitely near the end of the pack, there were still plenty of runners behind me, proof that this group is great for runners of all levels. I even noticed they had a call for pacers for this particular event – I missed the message but it’s something I’d definitely love to do in the future as this is an area I’d love to gain some experience in.

While this particular event was scheduled for a Holiday, RunTOBeer normally meets every second Sunday of the month. The group offers 3 different distances to cover all ability levels, 3k, 5k and 10k. I wonder if they have toyed with the idea of doing anything longer at all as I usually try and dedicate Sundays to my long runs. This is extra important for me this year as I tackle training for my first full marathon (kill me). Regardless, I can’t wait to run with the group again, even if it means tacking on a few extra kms beforehand or doing a long run on a Saturday and switching it up with a short steady run on a Sunday. Keeping the runs to every other week is probably best for my nutritional goals as well (why is beer so delicious?)

The best part? The runs start at a reasonable hour for a weekend. For me personally, if I miss an early Saturday or Sunday morning run with some of the other groups I run with, chances are I probably won’t get a run in at all. I am NOT a morning person, and waking up before 8:00am on a weekend for the purpose of running doesn’t always go over so well. (Since I drafted this, I see they have posted their next event which has an 11:30am start time).

Thanks for an awesome event RunTOBeer, it was the perfect way to celebrate Canada day in this beautiful city, I look forward to running with you again soon!

Check out their Facebook Page for all the details you need, I hope to see some of you out there next time!

 

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Oh Canada! (Thanks to Bill from the Night Terrors run crew for this photo)

Nike Women’s 15K Toronto #betterforit

Over the past year and a half I’ve had the honour of being a part of a growing community. This is a community of superwomen. This is a community of strength and determination. This is a community also known as Nike Toronto. You may remember one of my firsts posts about NTC Toronto. You may also remember my skepticism about these free classes that seemed too good to be true. I’m here to tell you they really aren’t and over the last 21 months I’ve had the honour of seeing a movement (and movement in general) in this city explode. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you that I’ve had the opportunity to train with incredible trainers, run with world class athletes, and even receive some cool Nike swag all without spending a cent. Well my friends, I am here to tell you it’s true and that you can also do it. I’ll get into that more later but first I wanted to talk about something big that happened a few weekends ago. For the first time in Nike history, Toronto was lucky to host a Nike race in our beautiful city. On June 14, Nike Toronto hosted the Nike Womens 15k race on the beautiful Toronto Islands. You may have heard about the Nike races in San Francisco and D.C. (Tiffany necklaces being handed out by firemen anyone?) and this year Nike decided to take their road races International! The thing that always peaked my interest about these races was the killer marketing leading up to the event. What I loved about it was not a focus on running a personal best race, but instead the power that comes from a community of women working together to reach a goal.

After a long winter where I kind of let my fitness slip away (sound familiar?) from me I was looking for something to get me back into racing shape. I had participated in NTC classes and heard through the Nike network about Nike Run Club Toronto. Nike has run clubs in a lot of major cities all over the world- and much like NTC, you can sign up for free! I signed up for my first NRC event back at the beginning of April (or maybe it was the end of March) and was more than a little bit intimidated. During my first run, we were taken to an indoor track to do speed training – not something I had put much thought or energy into previously. Much to my surprise, I found that while there were certainly some intimidating runners, the pacers were very welcoming and friendly and there were quite a few other people who ran at my pace (phew!). I was really impressed at how much everyone else cheered everyone on, it definitely made it that much easier (not like it was at all easy) when there was constant encouragement. My favourite part, while I was running with the “slow” group, no one once ever used the word slow. We were called the sexy pace group.

As the weeks went on, I participated in weekly speed training and other runs with NRC. I started to notice a marked difference in my speed. The groups slowly got bigger and bigger and bigger which was amazing to see. One of the toughest days was attempting a modified version of the Oregon Speed Workout. It was one of the hottest days of the season yet and it was INTENSE, but more than ever, everyone came together to support each other and make sure everyone finished. While it was one of the toughest, I think it was by far one of the best workouts I’ve ever done in my life- and I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have done it alone.

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Oregon Speed Workout

Race weekend rolled around and Nike pulled out all the stops! There were NTC classes being taught on a floating studio (a floating studio!!) on the harbor and an amazing Nike Women village was set up. There was so much hype and I had the chance to meet so many amazing women who had travelled from all over the world and workout with different Nike master trainers. It was so incredible to see so many like-minded people come together and encourage each other for the purpose of fitness. The day before the race, I participated in a 3km shake-out run. As we ran the last little bit and entered the Nike village, there were tons of cheering and such a strong sense of camaraderie. While I ran a half marathon last fall, when I started training for the 15k, I honestly wasn’t sure if I could run that far by the time June rolled around. Yet on that Saturday morning as we ran into the Nike Women’s village, I felt like I could do anything.

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Hanging out in the Nike Village post shake-out run

Sunday June 14 rolled around after a restless night of no sleep. I departed for the island at 7:00am with my best friend and running pal and an old friend from University who travelled all the way from Alberta to run with us. We waiting anxiously for things to get started and unfortunately, it started to pour. It was not a pleasant start to the day. Luckily, the rain stopped just as our wave was about to start. Already soaked, I figured that whatever happened, happened.

The race course was fantastic (though a little muddy). I’ve always loved the Islands so to run the total distance of all 3 Islands in one go was pretty unique. The coolest part was that we ran a good 2-3km on the RUNWAY of Billy Bishop Airport. It was amazing to enter the runway and see a sea of peach shirts stretch out across the airport with planes taking off and landing closely by. There are some amazing views of the skyline from the island but the view from the runway was probably the best I’ve ever seen and not something that many get to experience! The course wound back on to Centre Island which is where I started to struggle. One thing I love about bigger, high-profile events like these is the amount of spectators they attract. Running through the crowds on Centre Island really kept me going when I really wanted to stop.

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This wall was in the Nike Village and was then moved to the course. Pretty neat to see my own words of inspiration on route and everyone else’s encouraging words.

Shortly after, we ran by a gospel choir singing outside of a tiny church which was pretty neat! We then made our way to my favourite part of the Island- Ward’s island. If you’ve never been there – it’s worth taking a trip! It is so neat to see the houses and the small community that lives on the island year round! Again, I was really struggling here, but there were quite a few small children watching the runners go by handing out free high fives, so adorable and all the motivation I needed! I really hope that kids like that take something from watching such a big race and are inspired to get out there and run as they grow. The last stretch of the race went along the north part of Ward’s island; A boardwalk with awesome lake views. This part of the race was TOUGH but the signs that Nike had plastered along the way were a great source of inspiration. I was in some serious pain at this point when I noticed a sign that said something along the lines of “If your mind is screaming at you to stop, scream back louder” and I actually did try and roar out loud- not much came out though. Near the end, my favourite cheer squad was waiting to push people to the finish line. The Parkdale road runners always seem like such a fun and great group of people. NO ONE cheers like they do. I really wish I lived further west so it was easier to come run with your crew! I see them at pretty much every race and they always help me get through that last bit.

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So close to the end and struggling!

All in all, it wasn’t my greatest race timing wise. I was lacking energy and my calves were giving me a lot of trouble. I felt pretty down at the end because I really wanted to do better. In retrospect, there were a few things I wish I had done differently. I really wish I would have removed my negative attitude and just focused on running and finishing such an amazing race. I wish I had taken time to soak up the experience. I didn’t stop and take any pictures on the runway and I’m kicking myself for that because it was so cool! I think that I often forget (in running and life) to remind myself to stop and smell the flowers and really enjoy the moment. However, it truly was an incredible weekend and I can’t change it now!

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Wish this picture truly captured what it was like to run on a runway!

The most amazing thing was not finishing the race, or running on the airport runway or participating in classes on a floating barge. The most amazing part was being part of such a big movement and community. It was watching my friend who has never raced before finish a 15k race after only a few months of training. It was about talking to a new runner on speed night who had never run anything beyond 3k and didn’t think they could finish the workout (they always did). It was about going on training runs and seeing people run 1km further  they had before- or 2 or 3. It was about running with the sexy pace week after week and talking to the amazing women I met- most of whom were either new to running, or just like me. It was seeing these women stick with it and push themselves, turning the words “I can’t” into “I did”. We may not have been an overly loud or impressive group, but we did it and we are certainly #betterforit

For more information on all the amazing free events you can sign up for, head on over to the Nike Toronto page.

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An important reminder of what it really is all about

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3 happy finishers

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Fin.