Blog Archives

Why Your Body Can’t (and Shouldn’t) Make You Happy

There once was a time when I hated my body. Like so many girls, I grew up thinking my body was never good enough. Even though I’ve always been a normal weight, even in my pudgy days, I always berated myself into thinking my body could be better.

When I set out to lose my university beer gut, a strange thing happened. As the numbers on the scale went down, I started to like who looked back at me in the mirror. As I started to run races and ticked off the miles, I began to think “Damn, I’m pretty awesome.”

After years and years of hating my body, I suddenly loved it. I credited my new active regime for the 180. Heavy weightlifting transformed the shape of my body from a skinnier version of the old one, into the body I always dreamed of having. I was on cloud nine. For the first time in my life, I had oodles of self-esteem, and I owed it all to healthy eating and exercise.

This is one of the reasons why I started this blog. I was just so excited about this revelation that I had to share it. I changed professions so I could teach people in the gym how to not only look good, but feel great as a result.

If you haven’t spotted the problem yet, I will tell you, there is a very, very big problem in all of this.

When I fell skating on the Rideau Canal in February, I didn’t just shatter my arm. I shattered the self esteem that I’d spent years building. It had never occurred to me that I was putting all my eggs in one basket. That my sense of self worth came from the fact that I could run and exercise and lift heavy things.

I never considered that an accident could take my ability to do those things away. And as a result, lose my sense of self worth.

I’ve been very open about my struggles dealing with my arm injury. Although it probably just sounded like whining over a broken arm to many, the struggles came from a very deep place.

In the months following my injury, I spent a lot of time mourning the things I’d never be able to do again. I clung on to the hope that maybe someday I’d be able to do a push up or go into downward dog. Again, silly things to get so upset over, but things that meant SO much to the identity I’d forged for myself.

Then the cancer diagnosis came and everything changed. Without that diagnosis, I would probably still be clinging on to some hope that I could still take on the activities I once loved. But now I truly understand how silly it was to put so much importance into something so fleeting. I never should have relied on my body’s abilities to give me self esteem. Even when it was blanketed in seemingly healthy things like running and eating good food.

I am only just beginning the process of recovering my broken ego. I am creating new passions and finding joy in things that have nothing to do with my body or the way I look. I will never again think “I love my legs because they can run far!” Because will I still love them if I suddenly can’t run anymore?

As you know, I still (mildly) exercise every day. But now it’s purely because it increases my rate of survival and makes me feel good. I still eat healthy foods because they’re good for the cells inside my body. My self esteem now comes from the idea that yes, I am pretty awesome, but not because I can lift “x” number of pounds. My self esteem comes from the fact that I am happy being who I am on this planet, regardless of the body the houses me.


Taken yesterday while walking the trails of Hillsborough, New Brunswick with my mom.

Move It Monday – Upper-Body Workouts

Welcome to the first day of the PIPES Challenge!!

If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, you can read all about it right here.

I’m taking part in Morgan’s six week challenge to build upper-body strength. My challenge however will be a little different. I’m recovering from reconstructive surgery on my left elbow. I just started physiotherapy to get my muscles moving the joint again. My goal is to be able to almost fully extend my left arm on my own by the end of the challenge.

My arm exercises currently involve a belt and a bag of frozen peas.

Regardless, I do have a ton of tough upper-body workouts up my sleeve (pun intended) and it’s only fair to share. Below are three different types of upper-body workouts. That will hopefully challenge those pipes in new way and get you ready for the gun show in six weeks! ;)


Upper-Body For The Attention Deficit

Aim for around 12 reps for each exercise. Choose whatever cardio machines you like, or leave it out. With cardio, it takes a little over an hour.

Warm-up: 15 minutes on the elliptical, increasing resistance

Straight set (x3):
Dumbbell pullover (chest, back of shoulders, lats, rhomboids,triceps)

Alternating sets (x3):
Incline chest fly (chest, front of shoulders, biceps)
Incline dumbbell row (lower lats, rhomboids, middle traps)

Cardio: 10 minutes on the rowing machine, alternating grips

Straight set (x3):
Cable lateral raise (top and front of shoulder, traps)

Alternating sets (x3):
Dumbbell twist curl (biceps)
Forward triceps extension (triceps)

Cardio: 10 minutes on the stairmaster, increasing speed  

Upper-Body For The Heavyweight

Recommended for the advanced. A workout that has you lifting heavy at low reps and extra sets. Knowing your limits and using proper form are extremely important. The weight below is what I use for this workout, therefore just a guideline.

Exercise Weight Reps Sets
One arm dumbbell snatch  25 lbs 4-6 4
Romanian deadlift to row  60 lbs 4-6 4
Wide-grip lat pulldown  70 lbs 4-6 4
Barbell bench press 60 lbs 4-6  
Push-up  on toes to failure  
Incline dumbbell shoulder press  25 lbs ea 4-6 4
Incline dumbbell curl 12 lbs ea 12 3
Tricep pulldown 40 lbs 12 3


Upper-Body Pyramids

Pyramid sets get deep into your muscle tissues, really stimulating growth. The weight listed are just an example of how it varies with each set. Go with whatever challenges you the most.


Exercise Reps Weight
Wide-grip lat pulldown  12 45 lbs
Seated cable row  12 40 lbs
Wide-grip lat pulldown  8 55 lbs
Seated cable row  8 50 lbs
Wide-grip lat pulldown  6 65 lbs
Seated cable row  6 60 lbs
Wide-grip lat pulldown  10 45 lbs
Seated cable row  10 40 lbs


Exercise Reps Weight
Dumbbell bench press  12 20 lb dumbbells
Standing cable fly 12 10 lbs each hand
Dumbbell bench press  8 22.5 lb dumbbells
Standing cable fly 8 12.5 lbs each hand
Dumbbell bench press  6 25 lb dumbbells
Standing cable fly 6 15 lbs each hand
Dumbbell bench press  10 20 lb dumbbells
Standing cable fly 10 10 lbs each hand


Exercise Reps Weight
Arnold press  12 12.5 lb dumbbells
Barbell upright row  12 20 lb barbell
Arnold press  8 15 lb dumbbells
Barbell upright row  8 20 lb barbell
Arnold press  6 17.5 lb dumbbells
Barbell upright row  6 30 lb barbell
Arnold press  10 12.5 lb dumbbells
Barbell upright row  10 20 lb barbell

Biceps –
Alternating Sets

Exercise Reps Weight Sets
Barbell bicep curl 12 20 lbs 3
Incline curl  12 10 lb dumbbells 3

– Alternating Sets

Exercise Reps Weight Sets
Skull crusher  12 20 lbs 3
Forward tricep extension  12 20 lbs 3


As always, leave any questions about the workouts below. Let me know if you need alternates for any of the exercises because of equipment restrictions, injuries, etc. Most importantly – have fun!!

Move It Monday – Lifting Workouts

Hello friends and welcome to the first edition of my new Move It Monday series! Aka Fitness Friday, just on a new day. I like the idea of starting the week off with a little workout motivation.

Now that I am back in Toronto, I have access to my personal training notebook of workouts.

I have designed a ridiculous number of individual-specific workouts during my time as a trainer. It’s high time I get better about sharing these moves with all of you!

The following are two workouts that I tweaked to be suitable for most people. If you need any ideas for modifications, leave a comment and I’ll let you know what to do instead. Enjoy!

30 Minute Novice Strength Training

1. Squat to dumbell shoulder press.
3 sets x 15 reps


2. Single arm cable pull with rear lunge.
3 sets x 12 reps each side


Start standing with your right arm outstretched gripping the cable. Lunge back with your right leg while pulling the cable towards your body using your back muscles. Return to the starting position. Complete one set on one side, then switch to the other.

3. Single arm chest press with rotation.
3 sets x 12 reps each side


With a dumbbell in one hand, lie your back on a stability ball with your hips in the air to create a straight line from your knees to shoulders. Bring the dumbbell next to your chest and press it diagonally toward the ceiling so it is above the center of your body. Lift your shoulders off the ball into a crunch, then bring your arm and shoulders back down. Repeat to complete set then switch arms.

4. Hamstring curl on ball.
3 sets x 15-20 reps


Lying with your heels on top of a stability ball, lift your hips off the ground toward the ceiling, and roll the ball in towards your butt. Keep hips off the ground throughout the entire set.

5. Stability ball roll out.
3 sets x 15


Start on knees with hands together in fists near front of stability ball. Place bodyweight into hands, contract abs, and roll forward onto forearms. Keep a straight line in your body, hold briefly like you would a plank, then roll back to the start. That’s one rep.


Advanced Full Body Interval Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
1a. Surrender 3 12 each side
1b. Medicine ball push-ups  3 10-20
5 min cardio sprints*    
2a. Barbell split squat  3 12 each side
2b. Barbell bent-over row  3 12
5 min cardio sprints*    
3a. Mountain climber on medicine ball 3 60 sec
3b. Ab roll up holding medicine ball 3 20
5 min cardio sprints*    

*5 min cardio sprints (on treadmill, elliptical, stairmill, etc):
0:00 – 0:30 = easy (3 RPE)
0:30 – 1:00 = moderate (6 RPE)
1:00 – 1:30 = hard (9 RPE)
1:30 – 2:00 = easy (3 RPE)
2:00 – 2:30 = moderate (6 RPE)
2:30 – 3:00 = hard (9 RPE)
3:00 – 3:30 = easy (3 RPE)
3:30 – 4:00 = moderate (6 RPE)
4:00 – 4:30 = hard (9 RPE)
4:30 – 5:00 = easy (3 RPE)

Don’t forget to warm-up 5-10 minutes before each workout and to cool-down and stretch after. Have fun!!