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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?

Another Fabulous Sunday in the City + Those Goals

Ahhh, another weekend, another two days of amazing adventures in Toronto!!

I was a good girl and in bed sober and early last night. Set my alarm for 8am and was up and ready before it even went off!

I was excited for what I had planned this morning – free yoga at Lululemon!

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Most Lululemon locations offer free yoga classes on Sunday mornings. Something I’ve never been to as New Brunswick doesn’t have a Lululemon retail location yet.

I was a little nervous about what I would be walking into. I went to the Eaton Centre, expecting to be surrounded by yoga experts dressed to the nines in Lululemon gear. So not the case! There were about 15 of us in the cleared-out showroom. The instructor led us through 50 minutes of Baptiste Power Yoga. A style I’ve been apprehensive to try, but it really wasn’t that hard! I’m strong enough now that vinyasa doesn’t tire me out like it used to and I’m starting to move through it more quickly.

After two months of no yoga is was SO nice to do it again. My body absolutely loves it. I’m realizing it’s an important activity to include in my workout mix, so I suspect I will take advantage of many more free classes until I get the funds to join a studio :)

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I had some time to kill afterwards before a very important date downtown. I decided to wander up to Yonge/Dundas Square. The great thing about Toronto is that it’s guaranteed something will be happening there on any given weekend.

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Today I happened to stumble across the Live Green Toronto Festival. How ‘bout that!

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There wasn’t much going on though. I poked around at some of the vendors then wandered across the street to something that was a lot more eye catching:

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Forever 21. A clothing store I’ve heard manymany people rave about but have never been to. It was pretty cheap! I was thisclose to buying a dress I probably don’t need, until I looked at my watch and realized I was about to be late for my very important date!

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With a food blogger of course! ;) Jessica was in town visiting her family this weekend. Always on the lookout for a dining partner, I told her we had to get together to eat.

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We opted for The Queen Mother, a cute place on Queen West  known for good vegetarian fare (although not a vegetarian restaurant).

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Both Jessica and I took a quick look at the menu and decided on the same thing right away. I’m typically a fast decision maker (maybe sometimes too fast!) and appreciate eating out with people who are too!

We went for The Q.M. Burger: a high protein vegetarian patty of grains, nuts, herbs and mushrooms, covered in melted cheese and served in a whole wheat pita with our own special sauce, romaine lettuce and tomato.

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You had me at “pita.”

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What I wasn’t expecting was for the burger to be delicious. Dare I say… the second best veggie burger I’ve ever had?? Yes, I think so. I loved the combination seedy and soft texture, with chunks of whole peanuts. It was spiced perfectly. Their sauce of ketchup + something creamy paired with it wonderfully.

If you’re wondering, my favourite veggie burger still comes from Calactus in Moncton, New Brunswick. That will be hard to trump. I’ve got that burger on a pedestal.

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Me and Jessica! I had a lot of fun chatting and enjoying good food with her today. I have yet to meet a fellow food/healthy living blogger I don’t click with. What is it about us that makes us all so friendly and easy to get along with each other? Anyways, she totally convinced me that I need to take the train to Montreal some time. Soon!!

Just as I started getting settled back at home, this tweet happened :

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Don’t need to tell me twice.

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The bake sale was going on outside the Ceili Cottage, a wonderful Irish restaurant/pub in my neighbourhood. I originally went for the sticky toffee pudding, which I hear is amazing.

Then I saw this.

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It was love at first sight.

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I’m not sure if y’all know how much  I love cinnamon buns. Cinnamon rolls are great. But the white, doughy, fluffy, sweet n’ sticky bun is where it’s at. Perhaps Holly can tell you about how I drool at the mere sight of them. She watched me do this in every bakery we visited in Alberta :P

The above heavenly treat comes from a Leslieville bakery I’ve been meaning to try – Sweet Bliss Baking Company. Just another reason to snatch one up. They’re what Toronto Life calls the “best cinnamon buns in the city.” Fret not, in the spirit of moderation, I only ate the outer layer. The sticky center is now wrapped up and hiding in the cupboard. I can hear its muffled cries from here.

 

After missing a couple weeks, I do believe it is time for the second and final check-in on my Monthly Goals For August.  

1. Eat out twice a week, at no more than $15 a meal. Surprisingly, I did pretty good with this one!! I know I typically only blog about my meals out, but I brought all my food to work with me and often ate at home before going out. Even in Chicago, I only ate out once!

2. Read more. Finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which was good. Slow to start but turned out pretty scandalous. Love the main characters in it, which is the number one thing I look for in a book. Currently half-way through Generation A by Douglas Coupland. It’s a look into the not-so-distant future where bees are extinct. Until five different people around the world are stung. Told through the eyes of each of the sting-ees. In typical Coupland style, the unusual and impossible occasionally happens out of nowhere, but a good criticism on how we treat our planet.

3. Do at least one outdoor activity a week. Walkwalkwalk. Walking to the next subway stop instead of the closest one, getting off the streetcar early to walk the rest of the way home, choosing a part of the city to explore on foot… I did a lot of walking this month because that’s the only outdoor activity I can think of that doesn’t cost money and won’t kill me in the heat.

4. Look for part-time work and volunteer work. Spent some time with Simply Bar yesterday and paperwork is out for another volunteer opportunity! I may or may not have a really cool part-time job interview lined up for this week, but I’m not talking about any of that until I get a job offer. No jinxing!!

5. Update my blog pages. Changed the page names, including a new “The Girl Behind The Blog” section. Not the overhaul I wanted to do, but something is better than nothing.

6. Lose weight. Ugh. I’m tired of devoting mental energy to this. I was doing well, then went to Chicago and now feel unchanged. I’m playing around with my eating patterns and exercise schedule. As I wrote about in this post, I’m having difficulty adjusting to certain areas of my new life. I don’t want losing weight to top my list of priorities anymore. It’s tough when I’m looked to for fitness and nutrition inspiration and feel like I don’t look the part. I just want to eat well, be active, and enjoy doing all of it. It seems I’m happiest in my body when I’m not thinking about it too much. So this goal was not achieved, nor will I be setting it again.

 

And with that, I’m back to the Emmys!

Question of the Day: How did you do on your August goals?

Herb n’ Pig

Happy weekend!! I’m on the eternal weekend over here… I’ve been unemployed for exactly 8 weeks now! Or, I should say, “without work.” It’s an intentional stint of unemployment, but I am getting antsy to get my hands dirty again :)

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There is chicken bacon in the fridge that needs to be eaten up, but I also really wanted pancakes for breakfast.

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So I made both.

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Mixed up a double batch of my oatmeal cottage cheese protein pancakes (minus the sweeteners) and threw in the cooked bacon.

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I do not recommend this cottage cheese.Watery with a rubbery taste. Ew.

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Bacon and maple syrup are an amazing combo… too bad I’m hooked on the sugar-free stuff.

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Just another piece of evidence that bacon does in fact make everything better.

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As a side note, Sister Sara ate hers with real maple syrup and half a banana. She’s a girl who knows how to do it right ;)

I spent all morning putting 118 Banff photos on Facebook so my dad can see them.

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It was a gruelling task that had to be fuelled by a High Protein Banana Bar with greek yogurt. Parfait a la K!

Then I received this text message:

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That was all the push I needed to get my butt in gear and to the gym!!

I ran the 7 minutes it takes to get the gym. I LOVE being able to run to the gym. It makes weight days seem so much easier. I just run there, do my thang in the weight room, and run back. None of this cardio machine silliness.

Another full-body day with an emphasis on the upper body. My glutes are still hammered from my last session!

 

Exercise Weight Reps Sets Target
Step-up (alternating legs) 50 lbs 20 3 Quads, Glutes, Calves
One arm dumbbell row 25 lbs 10 3 Back
Stiff leg deadlift  50 lbs 10 3 Lower back, hamstrings, glutes
Incline dumbbell fly  15 lbs ea 10 3 Chest, front of shoulders
Dumbbell pullover  20 lbs 10 3 Chest, front shoulders, top of back
Side lunge with dumbbell front raise  7.5 lbs ea 10 3 Glutes, inner thighs, quads, front shoulder
Standing calf raise (on machine) 85 lbs 10 3 Calves
Cable pushdown  60 lbs 10 3 Triceps
Plank off bench n/a 60 sec 3 Abs
Standing dumbbell curl 12.5 lbs ea 10 3 Biceps

Colour coded again! Matching colours = alternating sets. Even though I only did one isolated ab move, I feel like I got a good core workout with this one. Those dumbbell pullovers require a lot of stabilization in that area.

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Refuelled with a big ole’ green salad in anticipation for my rib feast later. Just the typical garden salad with tuna for my protein, mozzarella cheese for my fat, and watered down hummus for the dressing.

Then it was on to my special project for the day.

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I had a whack of rosemary left after making boeuf bourguignon. My mind immediately went to Banff. The yoga studio we went to was located above a bakery that smelled like herbed focaccia. It was mouth watering.

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For some reason though, I didn’t feel like focaccia. No, I wanted biscuits. Something I could eat with eggs in the morning, or perhaps a rack of ribs ;)

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Buttermilk biscuits are traditional, yes, but silly when you also have a tub of yogurt in the fridge waiting to be used.

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A quick Google search lead me to this Emeril Lagasse recipe.

Rosemary Biscuits:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup buttermilk 3/4 cup plain greek yogurt

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the rosemary. Add 1/2 cup of the buttermilk a little at a time, using your hands to work it in just until incorporated and a smooth ball of dough forms. Add up to additional 1/4 cup buttermilk if necessary, being very careful not to overwork the dough or the biscuits will be tough.

On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into a circle about 7 inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick. Using a 1-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 12 biscuits.

Place the biscuits on a medium baking sheet. Bake until golden on top and lightly browned on the bottom, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 mini biscuits (I got 20)

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No cookie cutters were found in my sister’s kitchen, however there was a nice assortment of shot glasses.

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I really hope my new apartment in Toronto is well-cooled. I don’t know how I’ll survive baking with a 450F oven otherwise.

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They were done in 10 minutes flat and smelled heavenly. Almost as good as Rocky Mountain Yoga!!

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I calculated the nutritionals on these, and because they’re so small, one biscuit is only 44 calories. #win.

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As per the baking rules, I had one immediately out of the oven with butter.

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My first ever batch of biscuits were not only downright delicious (toot toot) but also crazy simple!! I keep passing all these wonderful bakeries here in Ottawa, and then think to myself that it’s so much more fun to just bake at home :)

Afterwards Sara and I went to a 90-minute Hatha Flow class. It was pretty fun! I did this:

Just with the assistance of two people and a couple straps ;)

Then it was time for RIBS. Ohbaby.

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Ottawa has this thing called Ribfest where a bunch of restaurants set up grills down a pedestrian street and sell nothing but pulled pork sandwiches and ribs.

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People get pretty excited about it, but I can’t think of a more messy food to eat on the side of the street.

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Sara was down there over lunch and picked up extra for me!

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Paired with a baked-fresh Rosemary Yogurt Biscuit. 

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And my first ever pulled pork sandwich!! It was good, although a little too much on the sauce-y side for me. How is it that ribs don’t taste like the rest of the pig??

Anyways, as you can see this was all incredibly delicious. But mygoodness I am paying for it now. Too much barbecue sauce for this tummy. It’s awfully hard to indulge when my stomach insists on rebelling like this!!

I hope it’s better for eggs and biscuits in the morning :)

See ya tomorrow!! xoxo

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