Tag Archives: fitness

Clean It Up

Eating clean means different things to different people.  For some clean eating may mean a vegetarian or vegan diet, switching to gluten free, removing processed foods, or choosing organics.  For some, eating clean can be as simple as removing junk food like chips and candies from our diets.

Eating clean is subjective, and is based on what our current diet is.  For me, clean eating is all in the pronunciation.  Being able to pronounce all of the ingredients in what I eat, and knowing what each ingredient is.  When I think of clean, I always think of water, water washes away the dirt and grime on our cars, our floors, our clothes so it stands to reason water will wash the toxins out of our body as well.

Any change that you can make towards cleaning up your dietary intake is a positive one.  Remember that it doesn’t have to be a huge change, and that small steps forward are more successful changes than making a drastic change all at once.

Drink up!


The Four Core Values in Fitness

Weight-Room etiquette is basically the same at every gym or club.  At the YMCA we like to base our etiquette on four core values displayed prominently in every location across Calgary and Canada alike.  Following the basic idea of these core values both personally and within the facility allows all members to show one another the kindness of these core values in our workout areas.

Honesty – Personal – Listen to your body and acknowledge what your limits are; push yourself to those limits.  Hitting below won’t give you the results you desire, and above may lead to injury.  Facility – There isn’t a sign-up for our cardio machines as there once was, but we do ask that members honor the 30-minute maximum during busy or peak times when someone could be waiting.

CaringPersonal – Care for yourself by eating well, sleeping well, and creating a wellness balance in your life.  Facility –  allow others to work-in between your sets.  Working together can help build new relationships and friendships within our YMCA community.

RespectPersonal – Acknowledge that you are being the best version of yourself and stop comparing yourself to others.  Cherish the uniqueness that is you!  Facility – wipe down equipment after use, no one wants to use equipment that hasn’t been cleaned!  The staff and volunteer team has a cleaning list that covers all equipment in the gym and we do our best to keep things are clean as possible for member use.

ResponsibilityPersonal – Hold yourself accountable, don’t blame external forces if you stumble.  It happens to everyone; own it and move past it.  Facility – Clean up after yourself; put weights away, cable attachments back to where they belong, and take pride in being part of our YMCA community.

The YMCA prides itself on delivering four core values in our every day engagements.  As a member of the YMCA, we hope that you feel those core values every time you are in our facilities, as well as paying it forward to one another.

Be Well

 


Fill ‘er Up!

You wouldn’t attempt to drive your car when it has no fuel.  You know better, and would make sure to put something in the tank before heading out even for a short trip around town, let along a long trip.

Food is our fuel, it’s our energy source that runs all of our body’s systems.  So why do we continually see people trying to workout without enough fuel in the tank? It’s important to make sure that you have a little something to eat before your workout – always.

Round It Out – Plan a pre-workout snack to have a protein, carb, and a fruit or vegetable.  Of course whatever you choose is going to depend on personal preferences, and any dietary restrictions you might have, but some of my favorite pre-workout dining includes milk, eggs, nut butters, cottage cheese, yogurt & granola.  All items high in protein that will help you to feel more satisfied yet keeping it light.  Morning-glory or Bran muffins, oatmeal with fruit or nuts, or high fiber cereals are all carbs that have whole or fuller grains to help you feel fuller without eating a large amount.  Bananas and apples are my favorite go-to fruits to round it out.  They are easy to take on the go, relatively mess-free and provide a decent amount of nutrients and fiber.  Mixed melon, cucumber, and mixed berries are a fresh,  light change as well.  Making a smoothie to go is also a great way to incorporate more than one of these nutrient groups together in a tasty way.  Try adding spinach for a high iron boost in a fruit/veg smoothie!

Did You Know? Cramping when running or swimming after eating a fuller meal is actually your body trying to digest that food.  The blood that supplying your body’s intestinal tract gets redirected to your arms and legs, and the food “stalls” in your intestines.

Don’t let your car sputter out, just make sure you put premium in!


Be FITT

We’ve all heard of the dreaded workout “plateau” but do we know how to avoid it?  There are many different variables in every workout program that you can change to help avoid hitting that plateau and help your body continue to see the benefits of physical activity.  The four basic areas in which you can change your workout come from the acronym F.I.T.T. – Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type.

The body reacts differently to the different stimuli that you provide it. By changing that stimuli, you help the body avoid adaptation, thus continuing to achieve results.

Frequency – Changing the days you workout or how often

Intensity – Increasing weight when lifting, adding cardio intervals into your program, change your sets and reps to challenge your muscles in different ways and different energy systems

Time – Length of workouts; can work in conjunction with Frequency, try working out more days for less time, or less days for longer

Type – Change the style of cardio you choose (treadmill vs. bike), try a new fitness class, or learn a new piece of equipment

 

Remember, change is a good thing


Let the Rhythm Move You!

Inspiration comes in many forms, for me music is a huge motivator.  I’ve always been a musically inclined person, even if I didn’t know it.  I started in elementary school playing the recorder, graduated to the clarinet for junior and senior high school, and I still play the clarinet today, mind you not nearly as well anymore.  I have always been able to feel and move to the beat of the song but don’t be mistaken, I dance like Elaine from “Seinfeld”.  There I go dating myself again.

Music is an expression of feeling or mood, even an expression of identity for some.  I have several playlists that I listen to when working out, and they’re all based what my program of the day consists of as well as the mood I am in walking into my workout.  I edit my playlists about once a month to update my motivation and keep from overplaying these delightful gems.

When I want to hit the cardio hard, I focus on pop music, whether it’s current top 40 or from another generation all together, if it makes me smile and want to dance, it makes the cut.  This week’s current cardio-killer favorites include Justin Timberlake’s “Cant Stop The Feeling”, Will.I.Am and Britney Spears “Scream & Shout”, Nicki Manaj “Super Bass”, and Men Without Hats “Safety Dance”. Love them or hate them my friends, but they make me smile and move a little bit faster.

Weight lifting/resistance training is a completely different beast for me.  My focus and mindset changes, as I suddenly have to pay close attention to my posture and form as well as breathing and core engagement.  With so many more factors to be considered, I need something rock to focus..  My favorite lifting anthems right now include Rise Against “Prayer Of The Refugee”, Metallica “Better Than You”, and Social Distortion “Story Of My Life”.

Cool down and stretching are important components of fitness that are forgotten or skipped quite frequently.  I have made my self an amazing chill playlist to enjoy at the end of my workout to inspire me to stay those five minutes longer and work on my balance, range of motion, and relaxation.  Current favorites include The Gaslight Anthem’s “Bring It On”, Pearl Jam’s “Release”, and Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”.

I’m pretty passionate about both wellness and music, so I’m elated that the two can go hand in hand for me.  I feel like my musical tastes are a part of me and I’m happy to share a snippet of myself in the form of musical identity with you.  Take the time to build a stellar playlist.  Keep a list in your “notes” app on your phone of songs you hear and decide you love so you can download and add it later.  Something that makes you want to dance, sing and have a great time.  It’ll brighten up your day, kick up the intensity in your workout, and leave you feeling refreshed and in a better mood walking out of the gym.

Shake it Off!


Fitness Fundamentals

Fitness isn’t necessarily what it used to be.  Fitness is a word that brings specific images to mind and for a lot of us, that’s a very specific image of the roots of the word fitness: leg warmers, spandex, and more spandex.  Changing the idea of what fitness is has come over time but it looks like we’re going in a good direction, changing that image to one of overall Wellness. That wellness comes from five different aspects:

Cardiovascular Endurance – Conditioning of the cardiovascular system in the body.  The ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues, and take waste materials away for a sustained period of time Example – biking, running, swimming

Muscular Strength – The maximum force that a muscle can deliver force in in one repetition

Muscular Endurance –  The ability of a muscle to deliver force over a sustained period of time

Flexibility – The movement of a muscle around a joint in a full Range of Motion (ROM).  Important to note: flexibility is different from stretching, stretching actually increases flexibility

Body Composition – The body’s make up of lean muscle, bone, fat mass, and tissues/organs.  The ratio of these masses in the body is considered your body composition

So remember that fitness is more than spandex and leg-warmers.  It’s about our overall wellness, including our cardiovascular and muscular systems, lifestyle, sleep and eating patterns.

Let’s be well.

 


Finding Time

You’ve packed your bag the night before, filled your water bottle, packed the kid’s snacks and booked her into child-minding.  She wakes up with a fever.  Sigh.

You got all of your paperwork filed, you’ve had your morning snack and have a packed lunch to eat at your desk after a lunch-time run. Your phone rings, and it’s a client crisis that just can’t wait.  Sigh.

No matter what the scenario that you’re hit with, the one thing that gets missed in your day always seems to be you.  For a workout veteran, this can be disappointing, frustrating, changing the mood and course of your entire day.  For a rookie, this can be catastrophic, completely derailing your momentum.

How can you combat this?  Here are five not-so-average body weight exercises that you can do at home or in the office with absolutely no equipment.  Before you even begin, take a moment and focus awareness on your posture.  Hold your core in tight (belly button towards your spine), open up your chest and pull your shoulder blades back.  Bring your chin up and tuck your pelvis under just a bit to protect your lower back.  OK, let’s go!

1. Sumo-SquatTargets the Leg Adductors (inner thigh) – Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointing out towards “10 and 2 o’clock”.  Raise your hands out in front of you as a counter-balance, and push your glutes (bum) backwards, bending at the knee.  Be sure to keep your knees behind your toes and your head up.  If you feel a strain in your lower back, come back to your starting position and reset your posture.  Every time you get to the top of your range of motion, squeeze your glutes tight.

2. Plank Jack/Jump JackTargets the Core, Leg Adductors, Shoulders – Start in a prone plank position, on either your hands or elbows, knees or toes.  Hop your legs out laterally and back in, come to a standing position and up for a jumping jack.  Come back into that starting plank position and repeat.  Be sure to watch that your glutes don’t pop up into the air, as that essentially deactivates your abdominal recruitment.  To make this lower impact, walk out 1 leg at a time in both positions.

3. Roll-OversTargets Oblique Abdominals (Core) – Starting on your stomach, stretch out your arms and point your toes.  Roll over onto your back without using your arms/hands to assist you.  Roll back onto your stomach in the other direction.

4. Plank Kick-BacksTargets the Core, Glutes – Start in a prone plank position, on either your hands or elbows, knees or toes. Tighten your glutes (bum muscles) and slowly lift your leg upwards and back towards the ceiling.  Alternate sides.  Be aware of hip positioning and try to keep the pointy bones on either side of your pelvis (ASIS) pointed down towards the ground. This will help to keep your hips from rolling open to the side

5. Incline or Decline Push-Up Targets the Pectorals (chest) – Start with a basic push-up.  You can do this on either the knees or the toes.  Come down to the floor as low as you can go, and push your body weight back up.  If you’re on your knees, try to keep the fleshy spot just above your knee cap in contact with the floor.  This will keep your hips and glutes down enabling your core to stabilize your body.  Incline: have your hands positioned 6-12 inches higher on a platform.  The higher up you are, the easier the push-up becomes.  Decline: place your feet up on a platform, with hands on the ground.  When progressing from a knee push-up to toe, start with incline, progressing to flat or decline push-ups.

To add intensity, jog on the spot or add a set of jumping jacks in between each exercise. 

No Excuses left, let’s go!


Body Shape 101

Not all Fat is Created Equal.

There are two main types of body fat found in our bodies.  Ironically, we tend to focus on subcutaneous body fat, which is the softer fat found beneath the skin.  This is the fat that we can grab with our hands or skin-fold calipers.  Subcutaneous fat is less damaging as it is superficial (closer to the surface), and is less likely to result in major health issues.  Visceral fat is the unseen fat in your body.  It is found deeper inside the body, around your internal organs. It’s a harder fat and has been linked directly to chronic diseases like heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and some cancers.  Visceral fat hides well beneath the surface, we don’t see it, most people don’t know about it, and it’s the body fat we should actually be more concerned about.

Lucky for our health, visceral fat tends to be targeted first during weight loss.  Unlucky for our esthetics, the subcutaneous fat we all see is targeted second.

Wellness Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

We’re all wonderfully unique.  It needs to be known that fitness doesn’t look like anyone or anything in specific.  We all have a “best” version of ourselves, and we can’t ask for any more than that.  In this delicious fruit bowl we call life, the three basic body shapes are apple, pear and banana.

Apples – you are identified by the majority of your body fat stored in your mid-section.  This puts you at the highest risk of visceral fat accumulation, as well as the health risks associated with that.

Pears – you are identified by an accumulation of subcutaneous fat around the hips, buttocks and thighs.  Not to say that you shouldn’t be concerned with visceral fat within your body, you are simply at a lower risk than your friend the apple.

Bananas – you are identified by your long and lean frame.  Don’t be fooled with the lack of subcutaneous fat, visceral fat may still exist but hidden deep and unseen on your body.

Where your body carries weight naturally can be a factor in determining a lot of things for you.  What doesn’t change is how to work with and manage your body type.  Put down the junk food and grab an apple, pear, or banana – and get moving!


One Step at a Time

Part Two – Putting One Foot in Front of the Other; the Beginning of Cardiovascular Wellness.

Getting yourself moving sounds like an easy step, but for someone who is beginning their wellness journey for the first time, or someone who is starting to work out again after some time off, it can be really daunting.

Try Different Things The first place a beginner heads to when they walk in the door is the treadmill. Keep in mind that there are a lot of different things you can try when getting started, but overall the best place for anyone new to the gym is the place that makes you feel comfortable, safe, and secure.  I’m a fitness professional, and the idea of hanging out on a treadmill for an hour sounds absolutely dreadful to me.  The key to finding a successful cardiovascular program is to change it up and find something that you like to do.  The treadmill might be your favorite place in the gym, others will find the elliptical, track, or bike your happy place.  If you want to try something and don’t know how or are intimidated by it, please ask us!  There are staff working in the weight room at all of our facilities and as active people, we would much rather talk to and help our members than sit at a desk!

Not Everyone is Built to Run Every single one of us is different. Our body’s physiology and genetic code plays a great deal into what our optimal style of workout is.  There are different muscle fibres in each of us that will make certain styles of physical activity easier than others.  If you absolutely dread long distances, try inserting some higher intensity intervals into your workout.  An example of this is to run a lap, do a set of jumping jacks, running stairs, or jump rope etc… in-between resistance training (weight lifting) sets.  So of you don’t like to run, don’t stress! There’s always something else to try!

Find Your Target Heart Rate Zone, and Stay Within It! An individual’s target heart rate zone (THRZ) is based on age.  The easiest way to figure out your THRZ is with this basic equation: 220-(age)= Heart Rate Max (HRM)  This is a number that we should aim to never surpass when doing cardiovascular activity.  Multiply that number by .6 and you will get 60% of your HRM.  Multiply that first number again by .8 to find 80% HRM.  During your cardiovascular workout, you would want to monitor your heart rate and keep it between 60% and 80% of your HRM For example, if you were 25 years old, your math would look like this:

  • 220 – 25 = 195 beats per minute (BPM) as your Heart Rate Max
  • 195 x .6 = 117 BPM
  • 195 x .8 = 156 BPM

This would mean that you want your heart rate somewhere in between 117 and 156 BPM during your cardiovascular workout.

Other Options Hiking groups, team sports or group fitness classes are an amazing way to sneak in a little cardio without even noticing it! It’s fun, it’s interactive, and you can meet new people who are living a healthy balanced life to help keep you on track. Here at the YMCA there are numerous different options to get involved in both aspects.  There are registered and drop-in group fitness classes offered at every branch in the city. We also offer climbing wall classes, swim and aquatic fitness classes, as well as some sport options.  These can differ from branch to branch, so check what is offered at your home branch. A lot of towns and cities have different recreational organizations to help people get involved with team sports as well. In Calgary, a great resource to check out the Calgary Sport and Social Club.  You can join a sport by registering a full team, partial team, or an as individual to make up a full team.

Build the Habit If you miss a day, don’t get discouraged! It’s all about putting one foot in front of the other, and sometimes a stumble will happen.  This is where you need to pick yourself up, dust off those hands and take another step.  Think to yourself the number twenty one. 21. XXI.  It takes twenty one days to build a habit.  Twenty one days to notice a real difference in your physiology. Twenty one days.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll hit your stride.  You’ve got this.

Happy Trails!


One Step at a Time

What a great day to change your life.  So where do you start?

Part One – Overhauling Your Dietary Habits

This is a huge piece to the wellness puzzle, and oh my goodness is there ever a TON of conflicting information out there.  It’s impossible to be able to tell the good information from the not-so-good sometimes, especially with all the different “fad” diets, cleanses, and restrictions that affect our eating habits.  The resource that is recommended by Health Canada is Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating which includes examples of what foods fit into each of four food groups.  It also offers tips on how to eat optimally for your age and gender, beginning at age two (younger children should follow the advice of their family physician to ensure all health requirements are being met). 

Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating also gives examples of proper portion sizes.  The reality is that we could actually be over or under-eating certain foods and not even know it.  Did you know that one bagel is actually two servings of grain products?  That two eggs is one serving of Meat and Alternatives? That half a cup of pure fruit juice is one serving?  I have personally found it helpful to have a food scale in my home.  Having the visual really helped me to learn what a single portion looks like, and has helped me to ensure that myself as well as my entire family is eating a healthy and balanced diet.  So much information is available just by going to:

www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/order-commander/index-eng.php

Real change takes work, commitment, and willpower.   Dietary habits are life-long habits which you have become accustomed to from a young age, and it can be difficult to learn a different eating culture.  Changing small things (to start!) can help to find long-term success.  A few tips that you can do to get started are:

  • Choose whole grain bread products over white, it will help you feel full longer
  • Increase water consumption – drink a glass of water before you eat a meal
  • Choose vegetables and fruit more often than juice
  • Trim visible fats from your meat and remove the skin from poultry
  • Try something new!  Tofu, quinoa, soy, brown rice, lentils etc. might sound bizarre to you, but you might amaze yourself with the items that you actually like!

It is important to note that that specialized diets do have a place in wellness, however if you are restricting anything from your diet (ie: dairy, gluten/wheat, sugar) My advice is to have a registered dietician or physician’s recommendation and guidance to do so safely. 

Bon Appetit!


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