…So I changed things – and everything changed. I focused on getting more good quality protein in my diet, more good fats, and less sugar. On the activity side, I added in more strength and high intensity interval training and eventually trained to become a certified Pilates instructor as well. I was leaner, my digestion was better – and so many of the nagging issues I had dealt with got better. …Read More
I might be biased (I am a Stott Certified Pilates instructor, after all) but in my opinion Pilates is an essentail part of any fitness regime. Including yours. Yes, I mean you – whether you are a beer league hockey player, distance runner, Crossfitter, dancer, arm chair athlete or yoga enthusiast. I know this because of the profound difference it has made in my life, which is what led me to become an instructor. Now, it’s not the only thing that I do as a workout - I do HIIT, lift weights, run, and more, because variety is one of the keys to overall fitness. But - regularly incorporating some kind of Pilates into your life will contribute to greater strength, stability, and mobility for both women and men, young and old. Sure, I've heard that people say it's not a "real workout", but to that I respond maybe you haven't been doing "real Pilates." While it initially seem so subtle, Pilates is a form of training that has the potential to make make profound changes in how you look and feel.
Pilates is So Misunderstood
Before I go any further, let me clear up a little confusion. Pilates is not yoga. At all. While there are many exercises that involve work on mat and can help improve one’s flexibility, the similarities almost end there. So what is it? Originally called Contrology, then eventually renamed for its creator Joseph Pilates, it’s a system of exercises designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, posture, and enhance mental awareness. In the past 50 years or so there have been a number of schools that have expanded on these principles. Besides mat Pilates there is also equipment, known as the cadillac, chair, barrels, and my personal favourite, the reformer. What I love so much about it is the ability to work on strengthening the body and mobility at the same time, all while focusing on the body being in proper alignment – which is absolutely key for preventing or rehabilitating injuries.
A Strong Core…and More (wink, wink)
Working on a strong core really is (pardon the pun, but it’s just too easy) at the core of Pilates. While many spend a lot of time working on their so-called “six pack” muscles (rectus abdominis), we literally go deeper. The core is so much more than that. Perhaps of greater importance to your overall functional fitness and good posture are muscles known as the transversus abdominis, the obliques, multifidus (small but mighty muscles that run up your spine), the psoas and more. So while the six pack gets all the glamour, it doesn’t really do anywhere near as much for your strength, posture, and even the overall look of your body as much as these other muscles do. Then there are the muscles of the pelvic floor, which we work to engage in many exercises. Let’s just say there are many benefits to knowing how to recruit the muscles of your pelvic floor. As a new-ish mama, I know first-hand that Pilates is an incredible way to address some the physical challenges that can occur both pre and postnatal. And, just in case I didn’t already have your attention, strengthening your pelvic floor can definitely be a win for your sex life. So there’s that.
The Freedom to Move
Our bodies are capable of moving in so many different ways, but most of us get stuck in the same patterns of movement every day. Whether it’s sitting at a desk at work or even running or cycling almost every day, repetitive patterns of movement can take their toll and create imbalances in our body. Over time, these imbalances can add up to a lack of mobility and even injuries. Think runners with tight IT bands and weak glutes or desk-sitters with tight hip flexors, or even a dental hygienist that spends all day turned towards patients and finds that his or her obliques and neck are tighter on one side. Pilates emphasizes stability, strength, and mobility while working in proper alignment to avoid injury. A properly certified instructor can suggest exercises or modification to help you work out without contributing further to any imbalance you might have while working on correcting it.
While it isn’t spiritual in the way that yoga is, there is a definite mind-body connection required to perform the exercises properly. You really can’t zone out and be effective in this type of workout, because you need to concentrate on activating certain muscle groups while stabilizing others. That’s actually a really good thing. Most of us spend a whole lot of time disconnected from our bodies. Taking time to tune in to what is happening while working out is a great way to de-stress, because you can focus on the details of the exercise and leave that stressful day at the office/school/home at the door, for at least a little while.
Take it from the Pros
There are countless people that rely on their physical bodies to make a very considerable living that do Pilates, sometimes every day as part of their conditioning regimes. Athletes in the NBA, NHL, MLB, professional dancers, and more because they know it can up their game and increase their career longevity. Oh, and just in case any of the guys out there think Pilates is neither difficult or masculine enough for them, LeBron James is a fan and uses it as part of his training program. If it’s good enough for LeBron, you can bet it will do you a world of good.
As Joseph Pilates himself said, his method “is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace, and skill that will unmistakably reflect in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work.” If that sounds like something that pretty much everyone can use, you’re right.
I absolutely love to travel. I love exploring new places, trying new food, revisiting old favourites, and getting a little bit lost. I even love airports. Really. Luckily for me, it’s looking like a good year for me for getaways. I visited California in the spring, am looking at heading to Taiwan again at the end of the year, and right now I’m all set to embark on a trip back to my favourite place in the world, Spain. I’ve been trying to plan what to bring for a while now, because to be honest I am not the world’s most efficient packer. However, I will say that I have learned some lessons in recent years about how to make my journeys more enjoyable.It all comes down to having the right things with you (this means leaving the clutter behind), being open to new experiences, and staying reasonably healthy.
I used to always travel in the closest thing to pyjamas as possible. Now, I like to feel good about how I look, even on the plane. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to dress uncomfortably or wear a bunch of makeup (ick) for a long haul flight. But a great jacket and a big pair of sunnies always help add a little polish to any situation. Having the right flight gear makes a difference too. I’m a sucker for a great set of luggage. Who wants to spend hours struggling with a rolling case that flips all over, or looking for the same old black suitcase with hundreds of others around a baggage carousel. Personally, I’m a bit in love with what Rimowa has to offer: colours and fabrications that will set your case apart, not to mention the functionality you need to travel a little more effortlessly.
Once you are outfitted with the right carry on, don’t be that person at security that has all those oversized bottles of skincare and whatever other liquid that is holding up the line. Please, just no. This doesn’t mean leave out the essentials. Get wise about travel size, and find yourself some minis. I’ve made a great find lately at Saje Natural Wellness with their Travel Safe Kit. A little bundle of all-natural products that combat minor traveller’s ailments: a chemical-free hand sanitizer (NOT that stuff full of triclosan my friends, NO WAY), essential oils that combat jet lag and tummy aches, and more. It’s nice to have because it’s hard to enjoy the journey if you’re not feeling so well.
As I mentioned, I like to try and stay as healthy as possible when I am out there in the world. So bear with me here….because here come the most important parts….
I need to move when I am on the move. Yes, I have totally been that person that works out while on vacation. Why not? Running can be a great way to check out a new city. A few laps in the pool will make you feel ready to relax even more. Now, of course if I’m doing tons of walking (which I often do) I will chill out on the cardio a bit, but I have been known to bring resistance bands with me to sneak in some conditioning exercises. I find all of this extremely helpful, because trying out all the wonderful new food is totally part of the joy of being in a foreign place. So I might as well achieve a little balance so that I can indulge.
But – what I don’t count as an enjoyable indulgence at all is the less than palatable and certainly WAY less than nutritious food that we often encounter when we are en route to our destination. I don’t want to eat that stuff, and you don’t want to eat that stuff. Trust me. This is why I have learned to be prepared so that I have something to eat that gives me the nutrients I need, without a ton of sodium or nasty preservatives, and prevents me from getting hangry. (I have had some seriously hangry episodes in the past when travelling – don’t ask my husband about our first trip to Barcelona.) Krave Jerky to the rescue once again. I’ve mentioned before that it is my go-to snack to stash in my gym bag. I also make sure that I bring it with me when I am travelling. I know that it’s a healthy choice that is a good source of protein, will give me the energy I need, tastes great, and won’t make me feel gross like the fast food at the airport or (eeek) whatever I might encounter at rest stops on road trips. Krave Jerky is also gluten free, so if that’s what you need, you know how tough it can be to find foods of convenience that are safe for you. Krave is widely available across Canada now in four tender and delicious flavours. It’s definitely something that I recommend checking out. There’s that whole balance thing again. A tiny bit of planning (as in stashing this in your purse or carry on) is all it takes to stay on track with having the fuel your body needs so you can really, really get lost. In the best way possible.
You can find KRAVE Gourmet Jerky in Canada at the following retailers: Shoppers Drug Mart, Walmart, Loblaws, Sobeys, London Drugs, Jean Coutu, Overwaitea Foods and Federated Coop. It retails from $6.99 - $8.99. Available in four delicious flavours: Sweet Chipotle Beef, Chili Lime Beef, Black Cherry Barbecue Pork and Grilled Sweet Teriyaki Pork.
This post was generously sponsored by Krave Jerky, but all opinions are, as always, my own.
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Yesterday I had the chance to preview the amazing Nike Women Village at Toronto's Harbourfront. You may recall that this massive Nike party of sorts is in town for the Nike Women 15K race being run on Toronto Island this Sunday June 14th. In addition to that, there are over 40 Nike Training Club classes being held in the Crystal Coliseum (pretty much a beautiful floating workout studio right on Toronto's Waterfront, an Expotique where you can shop Nike to your heart's content (including an early look at Fall '15 gear, and many Nike Running Club runs in advance of the main event on Sunday. There's so much going on, so head on down to Harbourfront or check it online here at Nike.com/Toronto. These pics show off just some of the fun I had at the sneak peek NTC class yesterday lead by Nike Master Trainers Eva Redpath and Marie Purvis.
When it comes to high intensity gym workouts, I'm always looking for something with that perfect mix of cushioning and support. This is especially important considering how much I love plyometrics and how easily a nagging left ankle injury of mine flares up. So when I find a shoe that does all that AND looks superfine, I am very excited. Exhibit A: the brand new Nike Flyknit Zoom Agility. Super lightweight, supportive, cushy and flexible all at once. These babies are designed for interval training, Boot Camp, or whatever gym workout you are doing that requires you to be fast and light on your feet. The one-piece flyknit upper is breathable and provides seamless training support - in fact, they feel a little tight at first around your midfoot than other Nike trainers might, but don't let that throw you off. Go with it. It's the flywire cables doing their thing. The extra spring (for things like my beloved jump squats and ninja burpees) comes courtesy of independent Nike "zoom units" on the sole (check them out - they're little hexagonal pillows of delight, really). I can't get over how much I love this shoe, seriously. They're my current go-to for all my NTC workouts - either with my weekly meetup group, or with the NTC App.
The Nike Women's Race series is finally landing in Toronto. Not really surprising - this is a city that LOVES fitness, and the surge in running crews in the past few years (Parkdale Road Runners, , Nike Queen West Run Club, The Food Runners, Nike Gridlock Runners, etc) has been nothing short of a phenomenon. Torontonians love fitness and, it seems, especially running - whatever the weather.
It only makes sense then that we are now a stop on the Nike Running Event tour, amongst a lineup of cities that reads like my to-do list (or been there, done that, like Taipei, London and San Francisco) of travel. On June 14th, women from around the world, and right here in the 6 will take on a 15K route on Toronto Island(s). If you're interested, check out the Nike Women's Race Series page because registration starts on Monday, March 9, 2015! (that's real soon, btw).
I've been training with Nike for a while now, at weekly Nike Training Club meetups with Nike Master Trainer Eva Redpath, and some pretty amazing running events as well. I love their focus on functional athletics for women, and really applaud them for that. As someone who is passionate about fitness and overall health and wellness (I'm also a Stott Certified pilates instructor), I love to see women learning how to get strong, and supporting each other in the process. I also am a big believe in mixing it up - and running is one of many ways to achieve fitness goals.
For all the latest Nike news, you can always click here.