Winter is coming. Why exercise? Why now?

winter exercise tying shoelace / Pexels
winter exercise tying shoelace / Pexels

Winter is coming. Why exercise? Why now?

With a second wave of COVID on the horizon, now is the time to get into that winter exercise routine. As we move into the fall and temperatures drop, many of us will be forsaking our daily quarantine walks and wondering how we will make it through the winter. If you have been healthy, it’s time to lock down your exercise routine and recommit to yourself. So, let’s use this fall as your time to honour your goals. 

Starting from what feels like from scratch can be daunting, but here are some things to keep in mind:  

Forget about numbers

Some people have lost weight during this pandemic, others have gained. In the end, it doesn’t matter. If there was ever a time to ditch the scale, it’s now. You don’t need some artificial set of numbers driving your output and your effort. Every workout that you participate in means that you aren’t sick and are healthy enough to be exerting effort. Whether it’s a walk with a friend or an all-out sweaty virtual power yoga session, the time you put in is your time. 

Focus on what you like

Forget about what you “should” be doing. Now is not the time to try boxing if you prefer a low impact weight session. But winter exercise can be a time to experiment. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try a boot camp class but were too afraid of looking like a complete novice. Take advantage of at home apps and classes to find something new. There is a bonus to learning on your own — you don’t have to compare yourself to anyone. You can play, replay, slow down, or speed through routines until you find one you like. 

Exercise makes you happy

You may hate it when you’re in the middle of a workout, but science tells us that exercise relieves pain and stress. Physical activity also stimulates the release of dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These brain chemicals play an important part in regulating your mood. With all this uncertainty, who couldn’t use a brain boost right now?

Exercise builds community

When I opened TrainingSpaces over two years ago, I knew this wasn’t going to be an ordinary studio. I was passionate and focused on inclusion. I strongly believe that no matter your size, background, or experience, exercise is for everyone. Just showing up makes you an athlete — and every single person who walks through the doors of TrainingSpaces is valued. Clients and trainers alike, we are all striving towards our own goals. In this time where we’ve seen so much isolation, anxiety, and depression, having a safe space where you can work out is essential. Seeing a friendly, supportive face is what so many of us need right now. 

I hope to see you back either in the studio or hear about your successes as you continue to train virtually with your trainer. 

Is it OK to exercise when you’ve got a cold? Well, yes — within reason​

Exercising with a cold? bare feet sticking out from blankets/ Image source: pixabay.com

Exercising with a cold? / Image source: pixabay.com

Is it OK to exercise when you’ve got a cold? Well, yes — within reason

Last week’s newsletter listed one of the unexpected benefits of exercise as being able to fight off colds and flu. But what if you succumb to one of the many viruses that are going around? As the weather changes, it’s rare that any of us aren’t affected by seasonal colds and the flu. But should you continue your exercise routine when you find yourself coughing and sneezing?

Experts generally divide colds into two categories: those with symptoms above the neck (runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat) and those with symptoms below the neck (cough, shortness of breath, chest congestions). If you have a cold that’s primarily located in your head, then you are safe to exercise. If you have any of the below-the-neck symptoms, you should put off exercising until you feel better. Additionally, you shouldn’t exercise if you have a fever, body aches, or fatigue.

There are few studies that say that a workout can actually help you heal. If you have a head cold, you may even feel better following your workout. Exercise opens up your blood vessels and lifts your mood. Many people also feel exercise alleviates congestion. If you are inclined, and your symptoms don’t interfere with your heart rate or your ability to control your breath, you can keep working out throughout your cold.

If you decide that you want to exercise, there are some routines that are better than others.

A workout where you’re breathing heavily, sweating, working hard, and feeling uncomfortable creates a stress response in the body. When we’re healthy, our bodies can easily adapt to that stress. Over time, this progressive adaptation is precisely what makes us stronger. But when we’re sick, this type of stress can be more than our immune systems can handle.

If you feel like sticking with your cardio routine, I recommend decreasing your intensity. Working out on a stationary bike, elliptical, or even running at a slower pace can still be beneficial. You can still strength train but gear your workout towards more comfortable, lighter weights. Stretching, yoga (but not yoga in a heated room), and pilates are also fine if you’re struggling through a cold.

And no matter what you do, make sure that you wipe down that equipment well to stop spreading your germs to your fellow gym-goers.

If you feel like you would be better off curling up with a book, Netflix, and a cup of soup or tea, then you may not want to push yourself. But a cold is not an excuse to give up on your routine and your goals. There’s nothing wrong with staying active as your body fights off a head cold. It can boost your mood and even help you heal. Still, this is a time when you need to listen to your body and not follow any rules that aren’t your own.

Fat-shaming response to Nike’s plus-size mannequins shows just how far we still have to go

Nike plus-size mannequins on display in London / Image source: allure.com

Nike plus-size mannequins on display in London / Image source: allure.com

Fat-shaming response to Nike’s plus-size mannequins shows just how far we still have to go

It’s been almost a month since London’s flagship Nike store unveiled its new mannequins. Displayed alongside more traditional ones, the new mannequins showcase Nike’s plus-size clothing line. Nike, unlike a number of mainstream fitness brands, carries a range of sizes from XS (0-2) to XL (14-16). As the average American woman wears a size 16, it is more necessary than ever to provide all body types with stylish, flexible, high-quality exercise wear.

However, not everyone celebrated the unveiling of the new mannequins as a sign of progress, inclusivity, and acceptance of body diversity. In an editorial published in the Telegraph, a columnist berated Nike’s move as delusional. She went on to shame the mannequin and make dangerous assumptions about health. Because I don’t want to contribute to the many clicks this article has already received, I will not directly name the so-called journalist or include a link. If you want to be disappointed in humanity, all you need to do is google “Nike mannequins Telegraph.”

Should we be surprised that this opinion exists? Not really. It’s just one of many negative voices that athletes who do not conform to traditional sizes and shapes have come to expect when they look for clothing that fits properly, offers enough coverage and support, and looks great. From athletic-wear CEOs casually saying their clothing isn’t for all women to incredible female athletes being criticized for what they wear to compete, the athletic-wear industry is a battleground. With the rise of athleisure, casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and general use, it is more critical than ever that companies embrace body diversity if they want to make profits and set trends.

While so many amazing women of all sizes have shattered the assumptions that there is a specific size and shape for an athlete, the idea that only certain types of people should even participate in exercise is pervasive in our culture. Yes, it is changing — but progress is slow.

As much as we may not want to admit it, many of us are still prisoner to this idea that overweight means unhealthy. Our society still looks at BMI as an easy way to classify and put people into groups. We look at the outward presentation of thinness and the numbers on the scale instead (link to How to Measure Your Progress) of celebrating our own accomplishments every time we lace up our running shoes.

The truth is that we all need to stop making generalizations about health and even berating ourselves for what we look like instead of what we can achieve. There are slender people who pass cardio benchmarks effortlessly. However, there are larger people running marathons and achieving the perfect balance of healthy and unhealthy cholesterol. Being limited by out-of-date biases will only keep us hating ourselves and reinforcing negativity. Change is slow, but if we want to all move towards acceptance and kindness, we need to start with ourselves.

Do you really want to change?

Change often comes one droplet at a time / image source: medium.com

Change often comes one droplet at a time / image source: medium.com

Do you really want to change?

One of the biggest reasons why people start working with a personal trainer is that they want to change. There has been a moment of realization when change becomes essential. Whether incited by a past or upcoming doctor’s visit or the inability to get into your favourite pair of jeans, you are propelled to take charge of your health. And the change will begin.

We all embark on change with the best intentions. But the reality is that change is hard. We say we want to commit ourselves to transformation — but this is often a slow process. One of the reasons why people have embraced the keto diet is that it works quickly. Making those adjustments results in significant and quick weight loss. When we see the effects of change and want to continue. When it looks like we’re putting in effort and don’t see results … well, it’s hard to keep on track.

Additionally, it’s easy to say we want to change but when it comes down to putting in the work…that’s a lot harder. It pushes us out of comfort zone and makes us feel vulnerable. We don’t ever want to appear weak or in need of help. It’s the daily armour we put up that allows us to move through a world that is often complicated and cruel.

If you’ve settled changing something in your life, how can you make it last? Well, change has two parts. There is the thought and there is the action. You can say you want to start running three times a week, and you can really want to start running three times a week, but if you aren’t actually running three times a week, then you need to put those runs in your schedule. Do you need to wake up a little earlier to accomplish this? Can you run home from work? If you aren’t looking for solutions and ways to make change part of your daily life, then it isn’t important enough.

With lifestyle changes, the journey is the focus. The results are surprises. They creep up on you when you least expect it. It’s being able to cycle up a hill without feeling winded or sustaining a 5KM run without walking. It’s choosing a salad because you just want a salad, and not because any diet plan tells you to eat salad. It’s prioritizing yourself and your workouts without feeling guilty.

Change happens in tiny increments, so don’t get discouraged. Allow yourself to appreciate the journey and reject quick fixes. In the end, it’s the change that is earned that is the change that lasts forever.


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Special-occasion weight loss and what happens the day after

measuring tape around waist

Foot on scale with flowers for weight loss post

Special-occasion weight loss and what happens the day after

This post originally appeared June 18, 2018.

I’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

Assembling your care team: do you need bodywork specialists to supplement your personal trainer?

Massage therapist doing body work / image source: babymoonlex.com

Massage therapist doing body work / image source: babymoonlex.com

Assembling your care team: do you need bodywork specialists to supplement your personal trainer?

When you are assembling a care team, your personal trainer is at the center. They can assess your overall wellness holistically and your one-on-one work together can be complemented by other individuals with different skills and experience.

I find myself guiding my clients routinely to two specialists: a chiropractor and a massage therapist. Most personal trainers will have relationships with other bodywork specialists and can recommend them, if asked.

Why Chiropractors?

Chiropractors manipulate the spine. They believe that proper alignment of the body’s musculoskeletal structure will enable the body to heal itself. Manipulation is used to restore mobility to joints restricted by tissue injury or repetitive stress.

Following an initial assessment, a chiropractor will work with you over a period of time to address immediate issues. They recommend monthly assessments to proactively prevent issues from returning.

Why Massage?

Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure. Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain, and muscle tension.

There are many different kinds of massage from deep tissue to hot stone to reflexology. It may take time to find the right type of massage and the right therapist. Every therapist has their own specialty so see what feels best for you and your body. Some practitioners have a variety of massages they offer so learn what is in your therapists’ skill set.

Both massage and chiropractic work can be covered by workplace benefit plans. Like visits to most specialists, your initial appointment will be longer and potentially more expensive. In this assessment, be clear about why you were referred and even demonstrate some of the exercises your trainer has shown you. Like any relationship, working with a chiropractor or massage therapist relies on honesty. Your therapist will look for cues of discomfort during your treatment but nothing replaces clear feedback.

From craniosacral therapy to osteopathy, I feel it’s essential to explore bodywork specialties and try them out myself. This way, I can provide you with an unbiased recommendation and we can discuss whether or not this would be a beneficial addition to your regular care routine. It can be easy to start making appointments with multiple therapists but research and recommendations can help you avoid adding too many people to your wellness payroll.

Video: Joseph Cipriano, DC

Jesus and the Apostles didn’t binge at the Last Supper, and neither should you

Repeat after me: Jesus did not binge. / Image source: glittergraphics.org

Repeat after me: Jesus did not binge. / Image source: glittergraphics.org

Jesus and the Apostles didn’t binge at the Last Supper, and neither should you

Have you ever decided to start a diet on a Monday and spent the entire weekend indulging in everything that you will not be able to eat once the diet begins? It’s not surprising that if you are about to embark on a restrictive diet, you want to eat all the foods that will be off limits. From a string of chocolate bars to stuffing ourselves at a family gathering, we promise once the diet begins we will say goodbye to the sugar, fats, carbs, and processed treats that we love so much.

But this sabotages our diets before they begin.

Last Supper Syndrome is part of the vicious dieting cycle. If you are going to experience famine, why wouldn’t you feast? This knowledge drives you to eat as if you will never be able to eat these special treats again. And we begin our new diet with feelings of guilt, punishment, and fear.

We know we shouldn’t feel that eating healthy is something negative. But if we focus on deprivation and dividing food up into positives and negatives, we are stuck in a constant cycle:

  1. Start the diet feeling unhappy and scared, focusing on forbidden foods
  2. Break down and eat something that isn’t permitted by the diet
  3. Feeling guilty about failing
  4. Make a plan to diet even harder the next time.
  5. Go back to step 1.

By falsely associating the foods we love with relaxation and happiness (and associating diet with the hard work and effort), we fool ourselves on a regular basis. If we are going to succeed, we need to create a healthy relationship with food.

Foods aren’t good or bad — those are just the labels that we put on them. By making your special forbidden foods part of your regular diet, they will lose their appeal. After all, how many times do you swear off pasta and find yourself thinking of pasta…all the time? These associations that come with deprivation only build a bigger mystique and entice us to break our commitment to clean eating.

Developing a healthy relationship with food can be a lifelong challenge. From comfort to reward to a signifier of celebration and companionship, detangling nourishment from emotions is a difficult process. By thinking about how we view food and examining its hold on our emotions, we can start one meal (or even one snack) at a time to evaluate this relationship.

Being healthy isn’t about consuming as much as possible before an arbitrary start date. It’s about being kind to your body and your mind and untangling ourselves from the constant diet cycle.

What happens when the whole idea of exercise triggers anxiety?

Is there a link between exercise and anxiety? / Image source: 3steplifestyle.com

Is there a link between exercise and anxiety? / Image source: 3steplifestyle.com

What happens when the whole idea of exercise triggers anxiety?

It’s difficult not to be anxious in these turbulent times. Just turning on the news can trigger any number of emotional events. For those of us who suffer from anxiety, the outside world can be a scary place when matched with our internal predisposition for catastrophic thinking.

Recent studies have found that exercise can significantly help you reduce anxiety. Scientists believe regular aerobic exercise decreases overall levels of tension, elevates and stabilizes mood, improves sleep, and elevates self-esteem. While there’s no one single reason why exercise helps, we know it increases endorphins. These natural painkillers reduce stress and make us feel good about ourselves.

But what if the idea of exercise causes anxiety?

Being afraid to start something new or even getting back into exercise can be a source of anxiety. We judge and compare ourselves to others who effortlessly pick up moves or look like they were born to be at the front of the class. We can’t even imagine that these people were ever crippled by self-doubt as they approach the gym like a second home. Insecurity matched with our personal narratives about fitness can create more fear. A vicious cycle keeps you from engaging and your brain reinforces these negative relationships.

The best advice is to start off small. Instead of turning to rigorous routines that get your heart rate up, look into activities that you may enjoy. You might benefit from a calming environment instead of a competitive one. Activities like spin, with darkened rooms and loud music, can provide overstimulation for some people — while others will take comfort in the darkness  and the way the class relies on predictable routines. Hot yoga can feel claustrophobic with soaring temperatures — but many classes follow a set sequence of poses which can alleviate the worry of what comes next.

Your first step in using exercise to help alleviate anxiety is to find a routine that works for you. Routine removes surprises and putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. Try to exercise frequently for smaller amounts of time so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Then focus… concentrate on every movement you make, your breath, and being fully present. Even if you are just going to a walk, make every step count.

Using exercise to combat anxiety doesn’t need to make you feel more anxious. If you are working with a personal trainer, open up and let them know what you’re dealing with. They can modify your workout to improve both your mental and physical well-being.

Hello 2019: a realistic approach to New Year’s resolutions

Best take a realistic approach to New Year's resolutions. / Image credit: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Best take a realistic approach to New Year's resolutions. / Image credit: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Hello 2019: a realistic approach to New Year’s resolutions

New year … new you! Do you plan a complete life overhaul the moment the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve? In 2019, you are going to lose weight, read more, eat healthier, be more present, take up a new hobby, learn a musical instrument, enrol in a cooking class, stop online shopping … and the list of self-improvement measures that click into place as of January 1st goes on and on.

But the truth is that few of us are still keeping our resolutions by February 1st. We start off strong out but quickly bad habits and life get in the way. Shame and fear take over and we become disappointed that we’ve failed to keep yet another resolution.

So how can you make a new year’s resolution stick? How can you emerge triumphant and build a new sustainable habit?

  1. Focus on one thing at a time. Changing a lot of things at once is difficult. Focus on what you really want and the one goal you believe you can accomplish. What is the one thing you can do for yourself this year that will improve your life? Pick this as your resolution and go for it.
  2. Start small. Starting off small will help you stay on track. Instead of revamping your entire life, find a small change that you can make every day to work towards a larger goal. Add in a high protein breakfast or cut one teaspoon of sugar out of your coffee. Add one cardio day to your schedule instead of going in for five.
  3. Be realistic. 2019 might be the year that you run that marathon. Or it might be the year you complete a 5K without walking. Both are good resolutions but which one sounds more like you? In fact, running that 5K or 10K might be the perfect stepping stone to 2020’s run a marathon resolution. Being realistic will help you achieve your resolutions.
  4. Be patient. Experts say it takes 21 days for something to become a habit…and six months of it to be become part of your lifestyle. If you are committing to something, you have to know that you will need to be patient and persistent. Nothing happens overnight— and not automatically when the date immediately switches to 2019.
  5. Chart your progress and reward yourself along the way. Break down your resolution into smaller pieces and set deadlines. These deadlines are for motivation and not to discourage you. If you want to lose 40 pounds this year, start by losing five and keeping it off for three weeks. Then move on to another five. And once you’ve accomplished it… celebrate!
  6. Work in small time increments. Recommit to yourself for 24 hours. You can do anything for 24 hours. The 24-hour increments will build on each other and help you focus on your resolution.

Keeping your resolution is about prioritization and planning. It’s up to you to make the change and stick to it. These achievements are under your control but it’s your actions which need to change to see the results you want.

There are no cheat days when it comes to weight loss

wieght loss cheating / image source: tucsonhypnosis.com

There are no cheat days when it comes to weight loss

We don’t gain weight overnight. It happens slowly over time. We know we’re making unhealthy food choices but we tell ourselves that one little chocolate bar won’t matter. We indulge in our trigger foods and have that extra helping. We allow our cheat day to extend to the entire weekend, promising ourselves that tomorrow we’ll be better. We ignore the scale and our clothes expand with us.

And then one day, we try on something for a special occasion and find we can’t zip it up. So, we finally dust off the scale (probably replacing the old, dead batteries) and we see the reality of our weight.

And then one day, we try on something for a special occasion and find we can’t zip it up. So, we finally dust off the scale (probably replacing the old, dead batteries) and we see the reality of our weight.

Before you accuse me of body shaming, I want to make it clear that there is an ideal weight for everyone. But I’m not talking about the laughable BMI calculation. I’m referring to the weight where you feel best. This is the weight where you feel comfortable in your body and are considered medically healthy. This isn’t about aesthetics or being a size 0. It’s about you not looking in the mirror, even being able to look in the mirror, and knowing you are living your best life. A life where you are confident and can move through the world in a positive way.

For many people, myself included, who have struggled with their weight — we know when we’ve gone too far. We not only don’t look our best, but we don’t feel our best. We don’t understand why we’re in this position again. But we also know exactly why we’re in this position again.

You need to reset and commit to taking charge. It’s time to be disciplined about what you eat and how you exercise. This isn’t about calories in/calories out. This is about mindful, healthy decisions that will lead you back to feeling good and taking control of your future.

Most conventional diet and exercise plans introduce different phases. The first stage is the most restrictive and limiting. Over the years, I’ve seen people embark on the first phase excitedly and see quick results. Once they move into maintenance and re-introduce new foods and concepts, they lapse back into bad habits. This is where the half a teaspoon becomes a full teaspoon and then a tablespoon. Instead of thinking of your weight loss in phases and as a diet, think of it as recommitting yourself to you. This is an opportunity for you to listen to your body and really figure out what it needs and what it wants.

Here’s a list of five things you can do today and I share with my clients when they need to reset their diet and exercise.

  1. No sugar. This includes all fruit, except for berries.
  2. No starches. This includes bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and pizza.
  3. Drink water. You should aim to drink at least 2 litres of water a day.
  4. Do 30 minutes of cardio seven days a week.
  5. Your best food choices all start with S. Salads, scrambles, soups, and smoothies will fill you up and provide you with lots of choices.

These are small things to start you on your path and will help guide your choices. This isn’t a quick fix or a diet plan. It’s a solution to get you back to your best self. It’s permission to acknowledge that you need to recommit yourself to yourself.

Whatever interrupted your discipline and dedication, that’s gone now. Whatever went on in your life that made you give up and settled you back into old patterns — that was yesterday. Those choices, they are part of yesterday as well.

So step on that scale or put on those too-tight jeans. However you measure your success, these items will reward you throughout your journey. And you deserve it.