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Fitness Friday – Five Fitness Classes You Need to Try

In my experience, there are two kinds of exercisers:

1. The kind who are only motivated to workout by going to fitness classes

2. The kind that stick to their own thing in the cardio and weights area

Neither is wrong or right, you gotta do whatever gets you up and moving every day. But I do think it is important that everyone try a class at least once. Why?

  • It’s a great way to shake up your workout routine
  • It challenges you in ways you won’t when left to your own devices
  • It’s something you have to fit into your schedule and feel obligated to go to
  • It’s social! The people, the music, the energy. Working out for “me time” is fabulous, but it’s great to have some buddies there for support sometimes too.

There are tons of exercise classes out there to choose from. These are my top 5 picks.  

Most of these classes are offered by regular gyms, however you sometimes have to get creative when wanting to try out new classes. If you’re not a member of a gym, or can’t afford certain studios, see if you can pay per visit. Check into free classes in your area, such as at Lululemon and community centres. Some places will offer cheap 1-2 week trials or give you your first class free. Keep your eyes peeled! Even if you can’t attend long-term, trying it once is enough to keep things fun :)

 

1. Spin

Of all the fitness classes out there, I think spin class may be feared the most. The above scene from Run Fatboy Run definitely did not help matters. To be honest, the first class is a little tough. But the great thing about spin is that you get what you put into it! Take it easy if you want to! Keep your resistance and cadence low. Take a few extra seated breaks and breathers between songs. Make sure you arrive early so the instructor can help you adjust your bike. An incorrect bike fit will make the experience more painful than it has to be. Your butt will survive!

Some people are also afraid of spin because it’s a leg focused. It’s not going to give you thunder thighs. It’s mostly a cardio endurance workout with high intensity intervals, which are proven to burn fat more than moderate cardio workouts. Even though you may stay in the same spot the whole class, I assure you the pumping tunes and fast pace won’t bore you!

 

2. Step

There are a lot of 1980s fads best left in that decade – step aerobics is not one of them! Step is a lot like a dance class, but with the addition of height to make the moves harder. It is a much better cardio workout than more popular dance-inspired workouts, and most classes will include an upper body and core strengthening component as well.

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Again, don’t be scared that this one is too hard! Let the instructor know you’re new and they will help you set up your step. It will take a few classes until you get the step patterns down, but once you do, it’s a blast. If you ever get lost, just do a “basic step” to keep your heart pumping until you can jump back in, and don’t be embarrassed!

Just… be prepared to wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care ;)

 

3. Kettlebell

Kettlebells are badass. An iron weight with a handle used to swing in all sorts of directions. Be careful believing the hype that it burns up to 1000 calories in one hour. A newbie definitely won’t be able to push that hard. But there’s no doubt you get a great weight training and cardio workout out of this one. Two birds with one stone. (pun slightly intended)

 

The reason why I suggest doing this in a class format, is because it’s important to get proper instruction on how to use kettlebells. Your form has to be spot on or you risk injuring yourself. Swinging that kind of weight around without knowing what you’re doing can be dangerous! Not to mention, it’s hard to find the motivation to do 50 kettlebell swings on your own. Different story when you have an instructor barking in your ear.

 

4. Kickboxing/Boxing

Okay, so you won’t be fighting your classmates like in the above picture. Kickboxing and boxing are technically two different classes (my gym offers boxing with gloves and bags, most just offer kickboxing in an empty studio). This is another class where you get what you put in. Some people say it’s the best workout they’ve had, while others complain it’s too easy. Put some power behind those punches! These classes feature some great functional training (ie strengthening your body for every day movements). However, again, it’s important to pay attention to that form so you don’t pull anything!

Even if you’re a laid back gal such as myself, I truly believe we all have a little something in us that just wants to beat the sh*t out of things ;)

 

5. YOGA!

If you go to just one of the classes I’ve mentioned here today, I want it to be this one. Flexibility is SO important to health and well-being, and yet it’s the part that most frequently gets ignored by fitness minded folk. I can usually tell 10 minutes into that first session with a client whether or not they do or have done yoga. Their form and balance are better, their movements are more intentional and focused. Do yoga my friends. And do it in a class where an instructor can teach you. It is light-years ahead of the experience you will get on your living room floor.

 

I would also like to add that if you’re doing strength-based classes like Body Pump, it’s important not to rely solely on that class for your weight training. Your muscles are highly adaptable. If the purpose of your weight training is to get muscle definition, then it’s important to keep those muscles guessing. It’s okay to still go to the class once in a while, but make sure you’re doing different exercises on your own or with a trainer too :)

 

And with that, I am off! See ya tomorrow for a recap of this…

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Question of the Day: What’s your favourite fitness class? What’s one you still want to try?

A Random Waffle Wednesday

Happy Waffle Wednesday!!

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This week’s waffle is brought to you by blueberries.

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The usual protein waffle recipe made with a quarter cup each of whole wheat flour, unflavoured soy protein powder and egg whites, teaspoon each of baking powder, cinnamon and vanilla, and a half cup of almond milk.

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Topped with a mixed berry yogurt whisked with almond butter, fresh blueberries and a drizzle of syrup for good measure. Nom to the nom.

Lookie what I got today!!

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Seeing this for the first time was so cool. Caitlin’s blog was the first food blog I ever read. I’ve been following her since 2008. I always knew she had that spark in her, and I am so happy she has become successful doing something so positive (to see what it’s about, check out Operation Beautiful here). Dude, she’s an author! Of a book!

Even cooler, I’m in the book :)

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I submitted a blurb on overcoming gym anxiety and I’m stoked it made the cut into the final product. There are tons of bloggers I recognize in there. Really says a lot about how wonderful this blogging community is :) Oh, and you can read the full-length story on how I overcame my gym fears here.

Just a few years later, the girl who used to get panic attacks stepping into a gym now works at one. Can you believe it? In fact, the gym is probably one of my favourite places to be. I even hang out there to work out once I’m all done training. Here’s the fun full-body weightlifting sesh I tackled today:

Warm-up: 15 minutes on this elliptical:

Precor Elliptical Machine

A Precor CrossRamp. I don’t normally use this machine as I find the range of motion is weird for my legs. The little ramp in the front moves up and down, while guiding your feet along the same plane. It definitely challenged my leg muscles, but I just couldn’t get a high heart rate on it because the motion wasn’t natural for me. It’s important to experiment and find ellipticals that work for you!

After the warm-up, I grabbed a 20 lb kettlebell and did 3 sets of 20 kettlebell swings.

I felt comfortable doing this because I’ve done a kettlebell class before. I definitely recommend getting instruction from a pro before attempting these, as it’s suuuuper easy to injure yourself! On the bright side, it’s an awesome move ;)

Then 3 alternating sets:
Cable twisting standing chest press (12 reps)
Squat to cable row (12 reps)

Followed by 3 straight sets of 20 tactical lunges with a 20lb kettlebell. For this one, you pass the kettlebell between hands under your knee as you lunge forward, you can watch a video on it here.

Then 3 more alternating sets:
Barbell upright row (12 reps)
Dumbbell straight leg deadlift (12 reps)

Circuit done 3 times through:
Skull crusher (8 reps)
Plank on a bench (60 sec)
Barbell curl (8 reps)
Jump squats (20 reps)

 

60 minutes on the dot! This one had my heart pumping throughout. Usually I lower the weight on the isolation moves, but today I upped it to really hammer those muscles ;)

 

Finally, it’s been a while since I did some of the blogger questionnaires out there. Thankfully, Crystal nominated me for this award and I couldn’t resist but participate!

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Here are the rules:

  • Thank the person who gave you the award.
  • Share seven things about yourself.
  • Nominate fifteen newly discovered blogs.
  • Let your nominees know about the award.

*Ahem* Thank you Crystal for giving me this award!!!

Okay, the 7 things

1. My middle name is Elizabeth.

2. I re-read each Harry Potter book with each new book release, meaning I’ve read them 30 times.

3. I was born with a black eye.

4. If I could choose, my last meal would be my Nana’s egg sandwiches and potato salad.

5. My heart almost physically aches every time I see a dog.

6. I love the smell of second hand cigarette smoke.

7. My feet went down a shoe size when I lost 30 lbs.

 

Okay, so I honest to goodness do not have the time to go through 15 blogs, but I really love passing these things on. Instead, I tag the first 15 people who commented on my last post:

darryn (brio.gusto)

John

Emily

Laura

Katie

Lolzthatswim(andRun)

Angharad

kbwood

Tina

Laura@keepingslimandgettingstylish

Kristin (Cook, Bake and Nibble)

greensandjeans

Morgan @ Life After Bagels

runningaroundnormal

Renee

 

And I don’t have time to let y’all know you got the award! Soo, uhhh, I hope you read this! :P

 

You may be wondering why I don’t have time… well I’m leaving for Chicago tomorrow!! Okay, technically Kitchener, then driving to Chicago all day Friday. But it’s after 11pm and I leave at 10am tomorrow and I haven’t started any preparations whatsoever. Oh yeah, and I still have work to do for my real job! Aahhh, leaving things until the last minute, story of my life ;)

Can’t say I’ll be back with an update tomorrow, but I’ll try my darndest on Friday to get something up. I’m still contemplating how to blog about the Healthy Living Summit, seeing as 199 other bloggers will be covering all the same stuff. All I can say is that I’ll try to reflect it through my unique perspective as best I can ;)

 

See ya from Amerrrica!!! xo

Immediate Onset Muscle Soreness

Finally, I did it.

I went to a kettle bell class!!

Few gyms in my old neck of the woods offer kettlebell classes, so when Darryn suggested we try one out here in Ottawa I was all over it!

Now, I may be a personal trainer and fitness enthusiast, but I was still a little scared. I’ve heard this shit (sorry) is tough. Which in some twisted way is also why I was so attracted to it.

We went to an “Intro to Kettlebells” class. Thankfully, it was just me, Darryn and the instructor, which made it feel like our own private session!

Essentially, kettlebell training is a lot like plyo, but with the addition of swinging around one or two of these weights. It requires a lot more balance and fluidity than I was expecting, and perhaps also why they recommend you go barefoot.

 

We did a lot of squats and lunges, some with jumping, a few with presses. I think the sit-ups with the shoulder press killed me the most. Apparently the intro class is mostly easier moves with fewer reps. My heart rate definitely got high towards the end of each circuit and I could really feel my muscles working – the best of both worlds!

With all that said, it is pretty torturous. But some people dig torturous (maybe even this girl?). I’d love to find a beginner class in Toronto where I can learn more moves, and maybe even incorporate into some training plans for advanced clients!

And in case you’re wondering, I am hella sore. Inner thighs mostly, thanks to all those squats. No “delayed” onset muscle soreness here. It’s all immediate ;)

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After, Darryn and I found our way to the Byward Cafe. She had her heart set on a salad, I on a coffee and sandwich. They had all three!

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For the sandwich, I went for chicken and marinated vegetable. Very good actually, for something that sounds so simple.

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For the salad, I got the greek + mixed greens.

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For my coffee, I went for an Americano. Yummmm.

Darryn and I chattered away and had a lovely lunch together!

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Have I said that I love blog friends? I love blog friends. Everyone is so wonderful, one of the main reasons why all the work I put into blogging is worth it!! Not to mention, more people in the world who love to ramble about food and exercise with me ;)

After we said our goodbyes, I continued on my journey to the National Art Gallery. This is the place I was trying to get to when I got lost in Hull.

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Apparently it’s hard to miss because of the large, frightening spider out front. Disgusting egg sack and all. Aragog??

The gallery had a Pop art exhibit on! Including this one:

Lots of Warhols which were pretty neat to see. Some other things from the 80s and early 90s that I actually recognized from my childhood. The most “interesting” thing in the exhibit was a video of Kirsten Dunst singing the song “Turning Japanese.” No joke. I had to do a double take. Watch it here.

My faaaavourite thing from the gallery though were the Canadian works of art!!

The National Gallery has a lot of Group of Seven paintings which I lovelovelove. This one by Tom Thomson is one of my all-time favourites.

This one caught my eye immediately, and I smiled when I read the info card next to it.

“Red Currant Jelly” by Mary Pratt – an artist from Fredericton!! She’s one of the most famous painters to come from New Brunswick :)

Of course, this one also caught my eye…

“A Meeting of the School Trustees” by Robert Harris. Aka the source of the “Both of you know I cannot read a word” Heritage Minute!! It is slightly sad that my knowledge of Canadian history comes mostly from those Heritage Minutes…

I tried to power through the gallery as I still had a 40 minute walk back to my sister’s place and my body was starting to feel worn out. Made up a giant veggie plate the second I burst through the door.

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Carrots, bell pepper and cucumber with tofu spread.

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Tofu spread completes me.

Dinner featured a new-to me veggie.

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Artichokes! Okay, I’ve had the bottled artichoke hearts before, but I’ve never dealt with the whole thing before.

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I didn’t really look up a recipe before I spontaneously decided to cook them tonight. I took the hard leaves off, sliced them lengthwise, and let soak in red wine vinegar with shallots before sautéing.

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Eaten on half a pita with a cut up bison burger, mayo, mustard, spinach and tomatoes.

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Honestly, I think I prefer the jarred variety, but it was still a fun food experiment!

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Roasted broccoli and sweet potato on the side. Burnt it a little, which actually made it better! Crispier! Yumyum :)

 

Sara and I had planned on an Ashtanga class tonight, but she can’t make it. I’m secretly glad because I’m pretty sore from kettlebells ;)

Question of the Day: What is your favourite fitness class? One you’re dying to try? My favourite is either spin or step but tomorrow I’m making it to that Gliding class – mark my words! ;)

 

**Angela from Oh She Glows and I are organizing a big Toronto blogger meet-up at Calico Cafe for July 11th to celebrate my moving there! E-mail me at the greatbalancingact@gmail.com asap if you think you can make it – space in the restaurant is limited!

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