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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?

Fatty February Wrap-Up & Then Some

Hey bloggie friends!! Well, I was watching Food Inc online. But I apparently maxed out my streaming time, so I thought I’d take a little break to blog :)

Thanks for all the wonderful feedback on my Oatmeal & Beauty for Dummies post! First, I should add my mom commented that the typical oat-to-liquid ratio is 1:2, which is true. I do 1:3 because I cook them slowly and like them suuuuper creamy.

Secondly, all you straight hair pros out there gave my Chi straightener a thumbs up! Yay!! :D Some of you asked what my hair is like naturally, here’s an au naturelle pic I tracked down – naturally styled and my natural colour.

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Please excuse the mega awkward look in this photo. I’m an awkward person in real life, and it apparently translates onto film. I also cut my friend/bandmate/co-host out of this picture because I didn’t know if he is ready for his blog debut yet. Soon though, right Billy? :P

Okay, so if I had blogged yesterday, I would have said my whole-body weight workout was a little lacklustre. But the great thing about typing it up the next day is that I can tell you I’m sore! So I must have done somethin’ right!

Treadmill

Minutes Speed – MPH Incline
0-5 3.5 1.0
5-6 5.5 1.0
6-7 6.0 1.0
7-8 6.5 1.0
8-9 7.0 1.0
9-10 7.5 1.0
10-11 5.5 1.5
11-12 6.0 1.5
12-13 6.5 1.5
13-14 7.0 1.5
14-15 7.5 1.5
15-16 5.5 2.0
16-17 6.0 2.0
17-18 6.5 2.0
18-19 7.0 2.0
19-20 7.5 2.0

 

Exercise Weight Reps Sets
Barbell deadlift  50 lbs 10 3

 

Exercise – Alternating Weight Reps Sets
Assisted pull-up  75 lbs 8 3
Chest fly 15 lbs each 10 3

 

Exercise – Alternating Weight Reps Sets
Good morning 40 lbs 12 3
Barbell upright row  20 lbs 12 3

 

Exercise – Alternating Weight Reps Sets
Single leg romanian deadlift  15 lbs each 10 3
Seated cable row  55 lbs 10 3

 

Exercise – Alternating Weight Reps Sets
Medicine ball squat  11 lbs 15 3
Russian twist  11 lbs 30 3
Lying medicine ball throw  11 lbs 15 3
Pullover to ball crunch  11 lbs 15 3

Stairmill

Minutes Level
0-1 6
1-2 7
2-3 8
3-4 9
4-5 10
5-6 6
6-7 7
7-8 8
8-9 9
9-10 10

Yeah. Looking back I can see why I’m hobbling today. I would also like to add that I could have sworn I saw some shoulder rippling during those upright rows. Yesss! That’s why I’m a strong advocate of wearing shorts and a tank-top to the gym. They allow you to see all your muscles, instead of hiding them up in sweats and baggy tees. Wearing nice workout clothes can be a huge confidence booster!

I had another decent cold breakfast at work after…

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  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 tbsp Grape Nuts cereal
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tbsp blueberry jam
  • cinnamon

The tiny bit of Grape Nuts left to soak overnight made for a wonderful texture!

Also wonderful, this week’s Apple Cinnamon protein bar.

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Just one of those batches where everything comes together perfectly.

Let’s see… I also stunk up my office again with boiled eggs.

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Then tried to mask the smell with a fragrant citrus fruit.

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I’m trying really hard to like grapefruit, but every time I eat one I just wish it was a sweet orange!

Let’s skip everything else and get to today, shall we?

Good thing I went to bed at a decent time last night, because my body clock still kicked in this morning. Left me lots of time to make a beautiful breakfast before step class. PB&J Oatmeal Sandwich.

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  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (whisked into pot)
  • cinnamon, stevia
  • blueberry jam
  • peanut butter

To “sandwich” it, I pour half the oatmeal in the bowl, top it with half of the PB and jam, then layer the rest on top. Makes for a little PB&J “pocket” in the centre ;)

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Unfortunately, it was an “off: day for me at BodyStep. It started badly after the first song when I noticed I had a wobbly step. I had to swap it out for another one, but it left me a little off my game for the rest of class. We did a lot of new songs with moves I’ve never done, which means more time spent fumbling instead of pushing myself. Lastly, I’m sore!! Did I mention that already? :P My shoulders and hamstrings are beat.

Treated myself to a hot lunch, one of the great things about weekends.

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Butternut squash fries with two Sol veggie burgers topped with salsa and old cheddar. Hit the spot!

I had a banana I wanted to use up, so instead of making protein bars for this coming week, I made Low Carb Banana Bread. 

 

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It’s essentially April’s Low Carb Sweet Bread, with the pumpkin swapped out for banana.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 cup wheat-bran
  • 1/4-1/2 cup pure pumpkin (depending how moist you like your bread- I like mine really moist so I used 1/2 cup) 1 mushed banana
  • 1 cup liquid egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 tbsp each baking powder and cinnamon
  • 2 tsp pure stevia extract 4 packets of stevia

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick baking spray.
  2. Combine all ingredients.
  3. Pour into baking pan, bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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I had a piece right away topped with PB of course! Turned out really well! One piece (1/8 of the loaf) is 123 calories, 6g fat, 13g carbs, 7g fibre and 5g protein. Not bad!

Of course, my hot lunch then had me craving a cold supper.

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Egg salad sandwich with pickles, onions, mayo and mustard. Then carrots + salsa on the side. Check out how thick that filling is. Two eggs a sandwich is how it’s done ;)

 

Fatty February Wrap-Up & Then Some

Seeing as tomorrow is the last day of the month, I wanted to combine all my thoughts about my Fatty February challenge. For about four weeks, I’ve been consciously increasing the amount of healthy fats in my diet, with hopes improving my hair, skin and hormonal levels.

It occurred to me today that my results with Fatty February may be a little skewed. You see, I also went off the birth control pill at the end of January, and I’m realizing that what could have been a side-effect of increasing my dietary fat, could also be a side-effect of going off the pill.

For example, one thing I noticed is that my belly pouf shrank. Apparently water-bloat can disappear when you go off the pill, so who knows if it’s related.

As for satiety, I think increasing my fats may have improved it. I did a lot less munching this past month, especially at night. Perhaps it’s because I felt more satisfied with the food I was eating?

I haven’t noticed a huge difference in my skin. My face is still the same, my arms are still pretty dry, and the rash on my legs is only slightly better. Again, it’s hard to judge my skin now that I’m not taking a daily dose of hormones!

Finally, my nails grew at lightning speed. This was probably the thing I noticed most. I could barely keep up with them!

I can say for certainty, that I will be continuing a diet high in fat. Shooting for a 30-30-30 carb-protein-fat ratio worked really well for me this month, and I would like to keep doing it. Every body is different in terms of macronutrients, so perhaps this is just the one that works for me :) I’ll be sure to do more check-ins as I notice things.

As a side note, Caitlin wrote a wonderful post today on the “Big Birth Control Question” that I encourage you women and men to check out. Some interesting conversation in the comments of that post. I can tell you I was on the pill for four years and felt myself starting to drag towards the end. I hope going off it will get my hormones back to where they’re supposed to be, and I’m looking forward to being back to my body’s natural cycle. To be perfectly honest though, I’m a little weary about what will (or won’t) happen!

 

Okay, that’s enough getting personal for one evening. Hope you’re all enjoying your weekend! I’m off to finish Food Inc now…

The Elusive Protein Powder

Helllooo! How is everyone doing? I had a very laid-back Saturday, my favourite kind :)

Started off at 7am (sleeping in!) with some egg-white french toast.

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I prefer french toast made with egg whites, but I still spread some almond butter on top for my fat ;)

Citrus on the side!

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I hung out in bed for a little bit, then went to BodyStep. Step class is probably the most fun I have working out all week. I don’t always feel motivated to work out on Saturdays after a long week, but I always look forward to that class, so it’s a good way to get me off my butt!

Came home mega sweaty and replenished with a protein smoothie.

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  • 1 scoop peach-mango whey protein powder
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 2 tbsp shredded coconut
  • 2 dates
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 tsp guar gum

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This was soooo thick and creamy! Just like a thick milkshake – it was divine. Those gums are 100% worth the extra $$ if you like smoothies.

However, smoothies never stick with me for that long. Ninety minutes later I was hungry for lunch.

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Mini pizza off sorts – garlic tomato paste, Kirkland no-salt seasoning, sliced tomato, smoked mackerel, cheddar cheese on an english muffin.

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With carrots + salsa on the side. LOVE this combo! More than any other dipper for carrots. Try it if you haven’t yet!

I somehow found a spurt of energy today and cleaned a bunch and spent some time in the kitchen! First was a kitchen experiment that has been on my mind for a long time. I finally got the guts to do it, and boy am I glad I did!!

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Bacon Peanut Butter.

  • 1-2 cups dry roasted peanuts (I just dumped it in!)
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • sprinkle kosher salt
  • 2-3 tbsp real bacon bits

I blended the peanuts until smooth first, then added the other ingredients. I had to try it immediately on some rye crackers.

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Okay, so I know this combo may weird some people out, but I promise you it’s REALLY good, and I would not purposely steer you wrong :P I didn’t add so much bacon that you can taste it. It just adds more depth to the salty peanut butter, and if you concentrate really hard you can taste a little smokiness.

I also whipped up another batch of Deb’s Protein Faux-nola.

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First, in a small saucepan, I brought to a low boil:

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (the real stuff)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Once it boiled down a bit, I stirred in two scoops (60g) vanilla whey protein powder and one tablespoon cinnamon.

Then, I mixed it up in a big bowl with:

  • 3 cups puffed rice cereal
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup Grape Nuts cereal
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

Spread out onto a baking sheet and put into a 325 F oven. I have no idea how long it cooked for, but I took it out every 5 minutes or so to stir it around, until it was browned and getting crunchy. Some of the bigger pieces may not seem crunchy when you first take them out of the oven, but they will be when it cools down!

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The big chunks are my favourite ;) The Grape Nuts added to the crunchy texture too.

I also made a potato salad of sorts earlier in the day that I let chill in the fridge so it was nice and cold for supper.

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  • 4 baby red potatoes
  • 1 block herbed tofu
  • 2 boiled eggs
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • few shakes Kirkland no-salt seasoning (it’s a garlic/oregano/veggie-type seasoning)
  • 1 small carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 sweet bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 3 small pickles, chopped
  • 2 tbsp real bacon bits

I steamed the potatoes and tofu together first, then mixed everything together once they cooled.

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After tossing everything together, I felt that something was missing. So I channelled Mark, my mom’s boyfriend, who always says bacon makes anything taste better. I used up the rest of the bacon bits and he was right! Dee-licious! ;)

 

Q&A – The Elusive Protein Powder

 

Justine said:

What kind of protein powder do you use? I bought some chocolate Designer Whey to use for protein cookie dough, and it was hell of nasty.

simplypresent Said:

Question: I have heard mixed reviews about soy protein. What are your thoughts? – Em

I have a question for you.  I don’t really understand the whole protein powder thing.  I see so many recipes for Breakfast cookies and shakes that have protein powder in them.  I went to the local health food store and they have about 100 different ones to choose from.  (they are expensive as I am sure you have noticed…LOL)  What one(s) do you recommend?  Do you know the difference between Whey and Soy powders??  Do you recommend one over the other??
Help I am so confused…LOL.
thanks Stephanie
AKA
www.eatrunquilt.blogspot.com

 

It seems protein powder is a popular source of confusion :P I’m not sure if I’m the most informed person to give you the deal on protein powder, especially since I’m in Canada and have access to different brands. But I’ll give it a shot. Let’s call it a starting point, shall we? ;)

If you had told me two years ago that I would have to dedicate a whole cupboard to this:

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I wouldn’t have believed you :P

I thought protein powder and “Muscle Milk” were only consumed by jocks with no necks that grunt at the gym. Okay…douchebags.

But when I started lifting heavy weights, I did a lot of research that said protein can help muscle recovery. Back in those days I was a pescetarian and looking for more ways to get it in my diet. Specifically protein shakes, as they digest quickly and work to repair your muscles faster after a hard workout (remember! muscle is built during that recovery process!)

I went into GNC and was totally overwhelmed by the hundreds of expensive, giant canisters, so I instead went to Wal-Mart and bought the cheapest one I could find. Since then, I’ve tried to do a lot of experimenting to find what I like. For the most part, I prefer whey powder, which is a protein that comes from dairy. When searching for whey powders, you’ll likely find two kinds: whey isolate and whey concentrate. Isolate just contains more protein than concentrate, so it’s often more expensive. I either buy an isolate powder, or a mix of the two.

So I’ll show you what’s in my cupboard right now for protein powder. First is President’s Choice Whey Protein Isolate in chocolate flavour.

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When looking at the nutrition information, I always look at the serving size. I usually shoot for a powder that has 20-25g protein for 100-120 calories. This one may seem like a lot, but the serving size is 45g, when the standard is around 30g.

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The next one is from another Canadian company – PVL. I actually don’t care for their Whey Gourmet line, but the Naturelle vanilla bean flavour caught my eye because it’s sweetened with stevia. 

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The biggest downfall of flavoured protein powder is that they’re typically artificially sweetened (it’s how they keep the calories and carbohydrates low). This can be a problem if you’re trying to stay away from artificial sweeteners, or if things like sucralose give you stomach problems.

Finally, I have the source of today’s smoothie, Thermo-Lean Iso-Lean in Peach Mango flavour.

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I find the ISO Lean stuff to be a little too “fake sweet” for me, so this one has been in my cupboard for a while. Okay for a treat sometimes though!

Ironically, I don’t have any of my favourite powders on hand right now, but I’ll show them to you anyway. I always need to have a chocolate and vanilla on hand, and Iso Femme is a brand that is both tasty with good nutritionals.

This powder also makes the best breakfast cookies!

My other favourite kind is from PVL, the Whey Cooler.

This stuff is neat because you mix it with 32 oz water and tastes similar to kool-aid or gatorade.

It really is an awesome thirst quencher! And 20g protein for just 80 calories. 

Now, besides whey powder, I’ve only ever tried hemp protein and soy protein. Hemp is not so great, as it’s “earthy” tasting. But hey, some people dig that. Soy protein is actually not too bad. I’ve only ever bought Bob’s Red Mill unflavoured soy protein powder. I really liked it for cooking and baking, but not so much for smoothies. It was also a really fine powder, so it didn’t harden well in no-bake cookies and bars, it just got chalky.

I know protein powder seems like a lot of money at first, but just remember that it will last you weeks! Think of it like your car – the $30+ you spend on gas is like an investment because it keeps your car running for several days. Well protein powder is an investment that will keep your body running for several days!

Last but least, I feel like I should add protein powder will not make you gain weight!!! I helped my friend pick out protein powder last weekend and she was worried it would make her put on pounds when she is trying to lose some. But it’s just a matter of calories in, calories out. Replace the calories of something you’re already eating with the calories in a protein shake and it won’t make a difference.

Hope that helps!

Question of the Day: Do you use protein powder? What kind? Favourite thing to do with it?

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