The Choose Your Own Adventure Cardio Workout

Cardio workout: guys playing basketball. Image credit: Tim Mossholder / Pexels

The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Cardio Workout

When you commit to strength training, you are building muscular endurance and strength while keeping your bones and joints healthy and strong. Fat loss is a side effect.

To balance out the good work of strength training, I recommend that my clients participate in some kind of cardio exercise. And cardio is not an exact science. There’s no X times of week + Y speed = Results. Cardio does burn calories but it also helps you keep your heart healthy and prevents disease.

Should I do cardio in the morning or in the evening?

Studies say that you should exercise first thing in the morning. They also say you should exercise in the evening. I say you should exercise when it’s most convenient for you. If this means going for a quick run on your lunch break or waking up at 5 AM — the most important part in finding a place for exercise in your day. Make it part of your schedule and find a time that works for you. You know when’s not a good time to exercise? Never.

What kind of cardio should I do?

The kind of cardio you should do is the kind that you like. Forget about keeping an eye on the calories burned square on the machine. Those numbers are estimates and often exaggerations. This means there’s no point looking for the machine that burns the most calories — instead find something that you enjoy. Some people love spending the focused 30 minutes on an elliptical, catching up or rewatching their favourite TV show. Others would describe this as one of the circles of hell. For others, hiking on the weekend or taking a dance class contribute to their cardio.

Like my advice when it comes to finding exercise time in your schedule, the same goes for cardio equipment and type of cardio. The most important thing about cardio is that you do it.

How Long Should I Spend on Cardio?

If you’re getting started, you should spend 20-60 minutes on cardio, three to five days a week. If you are new to training, three days a week is a good start. If you are more experienced, I would aim closer to the five days a week to increase your heart rate. And this doesn’t mean that you need to run five days a week. You can mix it up with a combination of classes, activities, and cardio machines.

Cardio is one of the few things in life that really is all about you. So be selfish and find that me time. It’s your adventure, so what will you choose?

Strip away the scandals and focus on the benefits. There’s a lot to love about yoga

woman on pink yoga mat with hands extended

Strip away the scandals and focus
on the benefits. There's a lot
to love about yoga

How could anyone who embraces fitness, wellness, and balance dislike a centuries-old movement-based meditation practice? Yoga is linked to so many health benefits including calming your mind, toning your body, improving flexibility, and finding overall happiness. Why do you hate yoga?

And the fact is that I don’t hate yoga. I just hate how it’s perceived and what it’s a short-hand for in our society.

Unfortunate associations

Choudhury bikram yoga classI hate the corporatization of yoga and its connection to affluence. To be a real yogi, you need the right four-way stretch fabric and a special towel made from bamboo and unicorn tears. Yoga clothing carries astronomical price tags and is often made in unsafe work conditions. I think we can all remember when the CEO of Lululemon was caught out fat-shaming and insulting the very people who bought his clothes. It’s embarrassing, but it was part of a larger snobbery that separated appropriate yoga bodies from unsightly ones.

I hate the gurus. There are teachers who use adjustments as an opportunity to subtly touch their practitioners in a way that crosses the line. What about the power-hungry narcissists and sexual assaulters who gaslight their students to make excuses for bad behaviour? Or the enlightened individuals who preach humility and charity with one hand, while pushing unnecessary classes and workshops with the other? They abuse the trust of people who just want to be a little better than they were yesterday.

But I love yoga

With yoga comes the acceptance that we are all different. Just like we all struggle in life with different things, you can leave it all on the mat. You can sweat, flow, breathe, or just lie down. Every practice is different. The expectations you set for yourself differ every time until you learn not to set expectations. You learn to be present and take each pose as a mini-challenge.

TrainingSpaces owner Laura Rantin at the Grand Canyon.For many people, it’s hard to get back to the root of yoga because of all the bullshit. All the fake gurus and the cool clothes won’t take away the fact from the purity of breathing and focusing on the stretch. When you relax into a yoga pose, you’re treating yourself to some quiet time. You can tune out the world and all its violence, terror, and cruelty.

It’s easy to get caught up in the yoga lifestyle and the nastiness of it all. It’s easy to find ways to hate yoga. But it’s even better not to. Because yoga was here before the moisture-wicking fabric, and the predators, and the cool bags with extra pockets. And there’s something that endures about something that connects you to yourself — and challenges you to be a better person … one breath at a time.

Yoga meditation pose

Has yoga been good to you?

Tell us about your experiences with yoga! Any good stories? Any bad ones? An instructor you found especially helpful? A pose or position that was particularly difficult? Let us know in the comments!

Don’t let over-hyped evaluations get you down

Trainer discussing evaluation with client. Image credit: Youfit Health Clubs

Don't let over-hyped 'evaluations'
get you down

When you join a gym, many of them offer you a “free evaluation.” Fuelled with images of your new body and setting the record of pull-ups, you make an appointment with a gym personal trainer to see how close you are to your goal.

I have very rarely heard of these appointments going well. As a personal trainer, I am often confronted by my own clients following their initial evaluation. They could not perform the activities. They were called obese. They were pushed to perform exercises that damaged their body.

They felt like failures.

What my clients don’t realize is that there’s no such thing as a free evaluation. These one-on-one sessions are designed to sell personal training sessions. The gym environment is extremely competitive, and personal trainers often have to fight for clients. Offering new clients an evaluation is a trick to make them feel like they are extremely out of shape and can only be rescued by a personal trainer.

The fitness evaluation is a tricky thing. As there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to training, there is also no one-size-fits-all fitness evaluation. Instead, personal training is a give-and-take relationship with clients opening up about what they want from a session (or long-term plan) and a trainer constantly refining what exercises will help them achieve their goal. The trainers at most gyms quickly use a series of tests to gauge where they think a client is at — and select the exercises that will best highlight the weakness.

Evaluation as sales technique

I am not saying that personal trainers at gyms are unprofessional or unqualified. The truth is that they are under extreme pressure to retain their jobs and build a clientele. In a numbers-driven sales environment, trainers are pushed to make a hard sell to potential clients. These environments do not prioritize the trainer-client relationship. Instead, it’s about the numbers.

If you do join a gym and are offered a free evaluation, there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a try. Do not take the experience personally and remember the real reason behind the evaluation. However, there’s a simple way to test your fitness at a new gym that doesn’t involve the hard sell: take a class or try out a new piece of cardio equipment.

Instead of feeling badly about yourself, why not start your gym relationship positively? The potential to build a new skill and a challenge to conquer will keep you coming back to the gym — not feeling badly about yourself.

Take heart: hitting a plateau means you’re getting closer to your goal

woman holding scale and screaming because she's hit a plateau. Image credit: diyhcg.com

Take heart: hitting a plateau means you're getting closer to your goal

We’ve all experienced this: you step on the scale after a week where you rejected the office “it’s Thursdays so let’s have cake” celebration and swapped after work socializing for a killer run…only to find the numbers remain the same. How is this possible, you ask yourself. Why didn’t I indulge? And the whys and the hows just keep on coming.

Plateaus are extremely frustrating when you’ve been focused on your goal and find yourself stuck. But here’s the thing… if you weren’t moving towards your goal, you wouldn’t be stuck. A plateau is not failure. It’s the indication that you are moving towards your healthier life and away from your starting point.

I encourage my clients to start with a measurable goal in mind — whether it’s a number, a size, a rep count, or a weight amount. We make a plan and emphasize small changes along the way. Every week is an opportunity to make small modifications to the journey. Whether it’s logging food in a journal or adding an extra weights session, one change a week is not overwhelming and provides a sense of accomplishment. The following week, we’ll add another small change.

All these little changes add up to eventual results. I always emphasize that slow progress is about changing the behaviours … and making a lasting impact. Like all changes, at first this can be uncomfortable. Shaking up the routine and taking yourself off automatic can be tough. Finding yourself saying “no thanks” and putting yourself first is difficult. But we have to remind ourselves that we are doing this so we can be better and take care of others.

A plateau is when you get comfortable. It’s a signal that your body is getting used to these positive changes. If you want to keep moving towards your goal, you need to feel uncomfortable again.

To get back on track, we need to assess what’s going on with your diet and exercise by ….

Switching up your exercise 

Try a new class, activity, or ask for heavier weights. You need to feel challenged again — even if that’s holding a yin yoga pose for five minutes and just breathing through it.

Checking your food diary

It’s time to take a critical look at your food journal. Are there any trends that you’re noticing? If you thought you would give that food diary a break, it’s time to get back into writing everything/recording everything.

Although it might feel like you’re starting all over again, go back to the one change a week philosophy. What will you do this week to challenge yourself? How will you get yourself out of the plateau rut? Instead of being frustrated, it’s time for a reset and a celebration. A plateau is just a rest that reminds you that you’re on the right track … and you can keep going.  


Laura's question of the week

Have you ever hit a plateau? (Hint: the correct answer is always “yes.”) Was it weight loss? Strength? Flexibility? Aerobic endurance? How did you get past it? Let us know in the comments!

Plateau Point trail sign in the Grand Canyon. Image credit: artoftall.com

Running 101: how to overcome your fears and hit the road

Running 101: woman in track suit at the starting line. Image via Gratisography

Running 101: how to overcome your fears and hit the road

In the warmer months, many of my clients tell me that they want to start running. But, haunted by the ghosts of gym classes past, they are fearful. But running is for everyone — unless you have knee/joint mobility issues.

But how do you get started? Here are some tips to conquer your fear of running.

Get a Walk to Run app

There are so many programs designed to help wannabe runners progress incrementally. Most of these apps slowly increase your running time and you’ll see how easy it is to go from 30 seconds of running to five minutes to 10 minutes to 30 minutes. I recommend the Run 5K – Interval Training Program (https://www.felttip.com/run5k/) app or the C25K (Couch to 5K) http://www.c25kfree.com/ which both have simple interfaces and let you listen to your own music or podcasts while you train three times a week. They are designed for first time runners.

Make a playlist

And speaking of music, there’s nothing that can terminate a workout like a terrible song. It’s enough to make you give up. If you can craft a special running playlist, timed to your workout, you can give yourself the motivation you crave when you’re running up that hill.

Run somewhere

Sometimes it’s difficult to get motivated to run in a 5K loop around the neighbourhood. But what if you are running to something or somewhere? Why not run instead of waiting for the bus? Make sure you have plenty of time to incorporate your walks and runs — following your program. By running with intent, you need to maintain a pace or you’ll be late. This is an easy way to incorporate your run time into your weekly routine.

Sign up for a race

Sure races bring out the super competitive professionals with legs longer than your entire body. But they also bring out families, first time runners, and people who really believe in a cause. There are a number of races dedicated to fundraising for specific charities and institutions. Find something that you really care about and raise some money to support their initiatives. It doesn’t matter how slow you run — knowing that you’re running for a cause is enough to keep you going.

It’s just you and the road

Runners love the meditative running high they get by taking on the road. Some days you fly down the street and hit your milestones with minutes to spare. Other days, there’s an elderly lady speed-walking and leaving you in the dust. But at the end of every day, you’ve accomplished something great. Every run is worth celebrating. Speed and distance don’t matter. The fact you did it … that’s the true accomplishment.

So… are you ready to lace up and hit the pavement? Good luck — and don’t forget to warm up and stretch to prevent injury.

Trigger foods: the obstacles to our weight-loss goals

Woman eating chocolate, a common trigger food. Credit Pixabay.

Trigger foods: the obstacles to our weight-loss goals

I’ve had clients come to me in tears wondering why they haven’t achieved their weight-loss goals. It’s hard,  it’s frustrating, and it can trigger exasperation. As we always say, gaining weight is easy — losing it is hard. With the amount of food-tracker apps on the market and quick solutions, education about food density, and devices that calculate calories … we should be better at shedding those impossible pounds.

So what do I tell clients who are devastated by non-moving numbers on the scale? Well, we always start with being realistic. The healthy way to lose weight is 1-2 pounds a week. That’s it.

And then we look at trigger foods. These are the foods that you have an unhealthy relationship with. For some people it’s sweets. For others it’s salty. And I’ve had clients devour portions and portions of spaghetti bolognese. These are meals or snacks where there is a bottomless quality to your consumption. You can eat and eat without ever feeling full. Eating becomes an avalanche and you can’t stop until it’s all gone.

When you look back at your week, can you isolate those moments where you experienced a craving so severe that you couldn’t focus on your work? For so many people, the emotional component of eating undoes all their good work of exercise. Wanting a treat for finishing a project. A vending machine run in the middle of the day to break up boredom. A salty snack that is chemically designed for you to eat the entire bag in one sitting.

Honesty is key

Pasta, beer and bread are also common trigger foods. Credit: Stokpic.comSo, what should you do about these foods? Personally, I recommend avoiding them altogether. If you are honest with yourself, and identify a trigger food, keep it out of the house or desk drawer. Knowing yourself is the first step. And don’t lie. Being honest is hard, but it’s essential.

Does that mean that you’ll need to be on a sugar-free, no-salt diet for the rest of your life? No, it doesn’t. But if it means that you will never purchase a certain type of rice-cake flavour because you will consume it all in one sitting — that’s a fair trade-off to hit your weight-loss goal. By being as specific as possible about the item that causes you to want to consume in mass quantities, you can sever the relationship with this food. And keep on track to towards your goals.


What foods are red flags for you? How have you dealt with them? Let us know in the comments!

Finding your trainer soulmate​

Personal trainer coaching client on stationary bike. Image credit: Universal Training Academy

Finding your trainer soulmate

So, you’ve decided to get a trainer because you’ve heard that a trainer is what you need to reach your goals. And yes! Working side-by-side with someone who “gets” you is often the first step. At TrainingSpaces, we have a roster of in-house trainers who each have unique specialties and expertise. When you contact us, we’ll try to  match you with the trainer we think will be the best fit.

But there are also some things for you to consider:

What do you want to achieve? What are your expectations from this relationship? Do you have a clear goal in mind or is it just overall well-being and improved fitness? The more specific you can be, the better it will be for us to match you with the right trainer.  

Be honest about past experience. It might be difficult to admit that you haven’t stepped into a gym since Canada Fitness was handing out participation pins. Maybe you were an all-star athlete but were sidelined by an injury — one that still plays up when you do squats. Everyone has a background in exercise experience and being upfront is essential. It’s a baseline and a reality check. Your history is what makes you unique and allows your trainer to customize the best plan to achieve your goals.

Be realistic. How many hours can you commit to training? Often we want to jump into things and commit ourselves to the process. However, promising to train like Chris Hemsworth before shooting the next Thor movie is completely unrealistic — unless you are Chris Hemsworth and Marvel is paying you to work out 24/7. On the other hand, suggesting that you want to train every two weeks to lose 20 lbs by Labour Day is equally unrealistic. Think about how much time you can really afford to train and set small goals.

Prepare to experience mental and physical achievements. Part of the beauty of working with a trainer is building a relationship with someone who really knows and understands you. Being comfortable being yourself is so important to this relationship. In the mix of repetition and physical exercise, I’ve seen clients figure out their next career move, relationships, and sort through family dynamics. Go with the process and don’t be scared if something triggers that emotional release. It’s not frightening. It’s human.

Speak up. I’m not talking about the “it’s too heavy” complaint — I’m talking about the “I can’t do this because I will damage myself” feedback. Throughout your workout, it’s our responsibility to keep you strong and safe. If you are uncomfortable, you need to let us know. If you cannot tell your trainer how you are feeling, this is the wrong person for you. There’s no shame in admitting that you just don’t click with your trainer. Let us know as soon as possible. This way we can rematch you as quickly as possible.

Finding a trainer can be a daunting experience so take your time. Your trainer soulmate is out there!


How did you find your trainer? What was/is the best thing about him/her? Let us know in the comments!

Special occasion weight loss

Foot on scale with flowers for weight loss post
Foot on scale with flowers for weight loss post

Special occasion weight loss

Woman in bridal gown doing pull-upsI’ve had a lot of clients come to me with a specific goal or date in mind. It’s the wedding dates or the high-school reunions that have motivated them to take the first steps to weight loss. Whether powered by a desire to transform themselves or fit into a magical size, these are some of the most committed people that I’ve ever seen.

They meet with me multiple times a week.

They follow the diet rules. (BTW, I hate the word “diet.”)

They track their food and obsessively count calories.

And they count down to that special day.

And, not surprisingly, many of them achieve their goals. When you’re dedicated and have an end date in mind, your own laser focus can take you wherever you need to go. As a trainer, I work with my clients to target specific areas and celebrate weight-loss milestones. I love seeing my clients achieve their goals, but there’s always this little voice in my head that haunts every weigh-in.

“What about the day after?” it says.

Don’t backslide

Because I’ve seen it happen so many times. The day after the marathon is completed or the cake is cut. What happens next? What happens when real life sets in and there’s no focused end date for this fitness-first mentality?

Sadly, I’ve seen the most motivated people cancel workouts and slide back into unhealthy habits without a solid goal and a date. I’ve seen all the good work replaced with weight gain and frustration. Without the focused goal date, it’s difficult to get re-motivated until the next big event. We’ve talked about the challenge of maintaining commitment before. And the cycle continues.

That’s why I always recommend that my clients train for life — real life and not a cut-off date. By integrating healthy habits into the everyday, you can avoid the disappointment of special-occasion weight gain … that follows special-occasion weight loss. Focusing on overall wellbeing develops patterns and a healthy baseline.

So, train for today and not tomorrow.


Laura's question of the week

Have you ever resolved to lose x amount of weight for a specific occasion? What was it for?

  • Wedding?
  • Christening?
  • Bar / Bat Mitzvah?

Were you able to maintain it? Let us know!

stock shot of tape measure around waist of woman in bridal gown

Making a commitment to fitness: Day One is today

Commitment: balance ball silhouette illustration
Commitment: balance ball silhouette illustration

Making a commitment to fitness: Day One is today


Commitment can be a pain.

You know you’ve done this at least once. We probably all have. It’s Day One. It’s the magic day when you will actually start working on yourself. Whether it’s tomorrow or Monday or the first of the month, we’ve all pushed off our start day to one that feels more “real.”

In the meantime, we give ourselves permission to indulge in the habits that we are trying to break: a last supper of all the foods that are going to be our no-goes in the future, another day of sleeping in instead of hitting the gym early, or another day of late night bingewatching instead of getting those eight hours of sleep. Whatever your goal, you’ve probably found your own little way of avoiding it. And it’s okay because tomorrow, or Monday, or June 1st … That’s when you’re going to get serious about your goals.

Things get real

And then the monumental day comes and you forget to set your alarm. Or it’s someone’s birthday at work and you just have to have a piece of cake. Or you start your first run and your running belt breaks, leaving your keys and cash all over the sidewalk. Well, so much for Day One. Now, you’re off track until next week. Or next month.

And it happens again. And again.

Break the pattern

So instead of building up Day One as the only time to get on track, why not forget about Day One altogether? Instead, look at the small things you can do today to help you work towards your goal.

Look to today and not tomorrow — and celebrate your small accomplishments instead of focusing on a bigger goal. What did you do today for yourself?


Visit our personal training page and meet our trainers!

Treadmill shot for commitment post

Laura's challenge of the week

Find one thing that gets in the way of you keeping your commitment to yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything big; little things are often easier to find, and easier to change. That’s how good things start. 

Questions? Suggestions? Let me know!

Welcome to TrainingSpaces’ first regular update!

NL C872 Commercial Smith Machine - detail

Welcome to TrainingSpaces' first regular update!

Studio owner Laura Rantin

This update marks the launch of a place to find out a little more about what’s going on in our studio, learn about the trainers who work here, talk about the newest trends in fitness, nutrition, and health — and pick up a tip or two to help you reach your goals. If there’s anything you’re curious about, or a question you would like to ask, just let us know. Scroll to the bottom of the page and subscribe so we can keep in touch!

Watching plans take form

When I took over the studio earlier this month, I wanted to bring a world of possibilities to the trainers who work here and the clients who work out here. It was important for me to select the right mix of equipment for all levels of fitness. There were some decisions that were easy (replacing the concrete floor with a rubberized surface was a no-brainer). Others were more difficult. What one piece of cardio equipment would be best? How many weight sets and how heavy should they be? How many different uses could we get from one machine?

Personally, I’m delighted with the range of equipment we’ve installed in the studio. There’s something to be said about opening a studio with all new equipment. Nothing feels cobbled together or broken down. Sure, you get the “new car smell,” but you are demonstrating a commitment to everyone who enters the space. It’s my job to make you feel comfortable and keep your focus on your workout — the machines and equipment are just tools for your success.

Check out the Training and Video pages.

NL C872 Commercial Smith Machine - detail

Laura’s challenge of the week

Use a new piece of equipment. Find something you usually avoid and incorporate it into a training session. If you have questions or would like suggestions, just let me know!