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This article was written for and recently posted on ActivewearUSA – go check them out!
I’m a gym rat, so when my regularly snow-free city got a massive dump of the white stuff, I felt completely out of sync for the four days I was snowed in. Not being able to get to the gym is like having a fight with your best friend: you feel guilty, annoyed, and anxious because all you want to do is return to normal. And you can’t.
Fortunately, I didn’t allow my forced immobility to keep me from working out, but it had been a long time since I’d done an at-home workout. I was forced to be creative and re-evaluate my routine for the week and, along the way, I picked up a few tips to share:
Lacking Heavy Weights?
Increase your rep range. If you’re normally curling 25s for 8-10 reps but only have a set of 10s at home, try pushing for 15-20.
Remember, the key to effective exercise is to go to muscle failure, rather than just an arbitrary number. Therefore, do as many reps as you can until your body refuses to do another! This technique can be stretched as far as needed. For example, rather than squatting resistance, I alternated 100 squats, 50 single-leg squats, and 100 walking lunges in as many cycles as I could manage. Not only was this an effective workout, it was intense!
Resistance bands are a common alternative in a fitness-oriented household, but if these are nowhere to be found, head to the kitchen! Try soup cans, household items, or milk jugs. Considering that a gallon container weighs nearly 8.5 pounds when full, you can definitely create enough weight for resistance. One friend I spoke to during our snow week was front squatting with his guitar amp – anything can be used as resistance, as long as it is done safely!
No problem! Turn to body resistance exercises such as pushups, lunges, squats (and one-legged squats), burpees, planks, tricep dips, and crunches. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel. Body resistance exercises are often neglected when we’re at the gym, however they are extremely effective and beneficial. They force us to actively engage stabilizer muscles and small muscle fibers that are not engaged in an isolated exercise.
Not Sure What to Do?
Workout DVDs can be extremely effective when you’re in need of a guide, but the majority are designed to require extra equipment. It might be time to dust off that DVD collection and sweat it out.
The other option is to be creative! Use your homebound status as a chance to experiment with targeting your muscles from new angles using new grips and with new equipment you may never have thought of before. You might find that your couch makes an awesome support for dips or that washing dishes with calf raises burns more than your current gym routine.
Good luck! And remember, eventually you’ll make it back outside!Details
People lately have often been asking me, “Is there anything you can’t do?” which always amuses me greatly, for there are SO many things!
So I thought I would make a quick, silly post about the things that I can’t do.
Note: This list is obviously just for fun – I’m not getting down on myself, its just for a laugh. Who knows, some of these things may be ‘to dos’ for the future!
- Draw, Paint, or Photoshop. [Proof]
- Salsa and Tango
- Drive on the Freeway (Merging! D:)
- Play a musical instrument
- Do the Splits
- Fix a car
- Change a flat tire
- Catch a wave while surfing
- Quirk an eyebrow without scrunching up my face
- Tolerate drunk people
- Play sports
- Cut my own hair
- Live without spicy food
- Get through a photoshoot without one ridiculous face
- Cook complicated meals
- Deal with spiders
- Speak another language fluently
- Drink coffee
- Eat Olive Oil
- Brave cold weather
Going to the gym for the first time can be a nerve wracking experience. You’re walking into a foreign world of new equipment that requires certain form and safety awareness, you’re about to get sweaty and vulnerable in a room full of people you don’t know – and worse, they might judge you.
This is an all too common scenario I hear from someone who wants to make a change in their life, but may be self conscious about doing so. Being judged by seasoned gym-goers is a huge fear, and an unfortunate reality that discourages newcomers to a healthy way of life. This is particularly evident at this time of year, when we so often year gymgoers complaining about the “New Years Resolutioners” who are clogging up the gym, with comments about how they can’t wait for the herd to thin out – and I am SO disappointed by this attitude!
I find it baffling that these people don’t seem to remember that at one point, they were a beginner too. Someone who didn’t know what they were doing, someone taking the first step towards getting where they are today. Are their memories so short?
Instead, as seasoned gymgoers, we should be encouraging newcomers (regardless of the time of year), for taking the first step towards a healthy life. We should cheer them on for what could be a definitive moment in their lives, and we should also be willing to offer help, advice, and assistance with a smile. So this is my call to the seasoned, long term gym goers to be more supportive, to stop being so judgmental, and to remember how to be a courteous human being.
When I posted my thoughts on Facebook, I got varied responses, including:
“It makes it hard to work out!” – Really? Be creative and work around them. Maybe its an indication its time to change up your routine as well, and try something new.
“Well you know they won’t stick with it!” – This gets to me. DO you know that? No you don’t. You do not know whether or not someone will stick with their goal or not, because you have no idea what that person is capable of. Whether they start January 1st, or any day of the year, whether or not they are 5 lbs overweight or 100 lbs overweight, it doesn’t matter. You cannot anticipate if that person expects immediate results, of if they’re willing to work hard day in and day out, and you are not the judge of how bad they may want it. To assume you know otherwise is incredibly self righteous. That person deserves to be treated based on their potential just like you do, and not be assumed a failure.
Worst of all, one of my fans said she saw this quote on a Fan Page, which will remain nameless:
“It would be nice if we could get together as a group and take pictures of the buffalo in the gym tackinling their NYE resolutions. We’ll call it a month long social science experiment since they should be back to Mcribbing it up in a month”
I was disgusted that anyone in an industry dedicated to helping people feel healthy, happy, fit and confident could ever be so tactless, tasteless, and just plain rude! And its disheartening, to know so many in the industry have been saying much the same…
So I’m asking you with this post, to reconsider how you’ve been treating people at the gym since the new year, and to evaluate your attitude. Are you being self-righteous? Are you acting entitled? Could you be more supportive?
Inevitably, someone is going to read this post and think, “Its not MY responsibility to help someone at the gym, I don’t work there.” You’re right, its not. Just like its not your responsibility to hold the door for someone behind you or help someone pick up something they’ve dropped, and so on. But you still do them, because you’re a decent human being, and not a selfish jerk. No one is asking for you to completely derail your workouts either. Courtesy and a smile alone will get you a long ways.
And yes, occasionally, I judge. I judged the guy with the swastika and white power tattoos, I judged the drug addict who started jumping over benches and making karate noises, and I judged the woman sipping a Starbucks latte while walking on the treadmill. So I’m not perfect. I never said I was. But I’d like to think I do a pretty good job of supporting people when they’re trying something new.
It happens before every summer, and every new year: people will make resolutions to lose weight, eat right, and get healthy. Unfortunately, up to 88% of people fall through on their goals in record time. So how can we make our personal goals stick, and avoid the usual pitfalls? Here are a few tips to help with making effective goals on the way to any achievement:
Set Your Horizon:
Your journey cannot begin without a destination. A goal always starts with the driving factor which is the long term outcome you want to achieve. Whether its ”I want to change my eating habits,” ”I want to lose 50 lbs” or, “I want to quit smoking”, you must decide on the end point.
Make a Plan:
To create an outcome is the first step, but it is completely hollow unless it is followed with “I will achieve this by…” This is also the best time to do research. Research may include collecting healthy diet recipes, finding a workout plan that best suits your lifestyle and interests, or browsing the local gyms for one you would feel comfortable working out in. It may also include looking into the success stories of others, and asking questions: some of the best advice you can receive is from someone who has reached a similar goal. The planning stage is the best time to set a realistic deadline for when you want to be successful by. Not only does this keep you on track, it helps you evaluate your progress over time, to better understand how far you can go. (Research is also very useful for understanding what a reasonable timeline is for your specified goal).
Be realistic, and start with small goals:
Once you have determined an end point and a plan to follow, its time to plan a few pit stops. Progress does not happen over night, and small goals help gratify our successes while keeping us focused on the end outcome. If your overall goal is to lose 100 lbs, start with 15, and celebrate your achievement. Start with dropping a pant size, lifting 5 lbs more than you can at the moment, or switching to whole grains. The success of these small goals replenish our drive to reach our final destination, and encourage us through those long phases in between, where it may feel as if we are not getting very far.
Find a support group:
Share your goal with your friends and family, and ask someone to join you on your journey. Exercise partners are a great way to keep yourself accountable, and motivated! Support groups can help facilitate the research portion of your planning, share their own experiences, and help you when you are struggling. In many cases, people find that their immediate friends may not be the most supportive to their plans, but do not be discouraged by this! There are people everywhere who will support you, and you may gain new friends in the process.
Be accountable and honest:
One of the largest pitfalls associated with exercise, health and diet goals is denial, so do not be afraid to admit when you’ve made a mistake. Everyone is capable of making an excuse for why they didn’t make their workout, and we all know they’re usually tenuous at best. But the excuse game is in no way is beneficial towards reaching your goal. If you don’t have an excuse, don’t try and make one. Acknowledge your slip up, take responsibility, and move on. It is only through acknowledging our faults, weaknesses, failures and slip ups, that we are able to meet them head on and achieve better in the future.
Do not succumb to guilt:
Regret over an indulgence or a missed workout often leads to an entire guilt trip, causing the person to fall further and further behind on their goals, or starting all over, which we know can be so discouraging. Many people also consider their exercise to be, “all or nothing.” Slipping up once, means its just not going to happen for them. This is ridiculous! So you skipped the gym, so you had that cupcake, is it worth throwing everything away? Mistakes happen, and so do missed workouts. You may not feel good about it, but it is not the end of the world. Pick up where you left off, because lamenting gets you no closer to your goals. Those who wallow in guilt rather than face their problems head on are more likely to repeat the guilty action, or fall out of the habits entirely. Do not be a victim of your guilt!
Write everything down. Your weight, what you eat, what weight you were using for your reps, everything. By having the information handy, not only can you see where you are progressing and have a better understanding of how to increase your intensity at a reasonable rate, but you can also see where your weaknesses are. Does your weight shoot up after a lazy weekend? Are you not eating as healthily as you should when you’re out of the house? Tracking your progress on a regular basis helps you evaluate your patterns, and improve upon them.
Reward yourself in the proper ways that promote your new, healthier lifestyle:
A reward for your hard work should motivate you to move further, not act as a setback. There is something so counterproductive about treating yourself to sweats for succeeding in healthy eating, or taking a week off at the gym to celebrate six months of consistency. Try little treats that will excite you about your health and fitness – a new workout outfit or a new piece of equipment you’ve been eying, new supportive shoes, a day at the beach, a new supplement, or something that reminds you of what it took to achieve. Also, ensure that the reward match the accomplishment; losing that first ten 10lbs is a huge step in the right direction, but not quite worth that trip to Africa. Save that for your last ten lbs when you can show off your beach body with pride.
Most importantly, never stagnate!
Continue to make regular, active goals, even once you have achieved your milestone. The ceaseless drive to improve and the endless pursuit of success will always enrich your life. Once you have achieved your endpoint, strive for personal bests, better diet, harder muscles, anything that will keep you chasing happiness and health! The fulfillment of your triumphs will inspire others, and leave many memories for you to be proud of.
What do you want to achieve? What are you waiting for? You can do anything, as long as you make those first few steps.Details
What is your theme to guide you through the year?
Mine is The Year I Set Myself ON FIRE!
This year, I’m going to blaze brighter than ever, burn harder and increase the intensity in everything I do, until I’m a bonfire that no one can ignore. Watch out world, I’m coming for you. You can embrace the fire, or you can become coals in my wake.
Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire. ~Arnold H. Glasow
Below, I’ve provided a sample (100 Songs) of the music I like to listen to while working out – these songs incorporate what I use for weight lifting, cardio, pole fitness, aerial silks, kickboxing and many other workouts, so you will find a great variance in music choice. My tastes range from musical scores and theme songs, to things you might hear on the radio, right into obscure bands that aren’t well known.
Where available, I’ve attempted to include Youtube links to the songs. I hope you enjoy, and perhaps find something new to add to your list!
- Escape the Fate – Gorgeous Nightmare
- Metallica – Fuel
- Katzenjammer – A Bar in Amsterdam
- Mariana’s Trench – Toy Soldiers
- Mariana’s Trench – Desperate Measures
- Mariana’s Trench – Haven’t Had Enough
- Mariana’s Trench – Stutter
- Mariana’s Trench – Shake Tramp
- Mariana’s Trench – September
- Mariana’s Trench – Vertigo
- Mariana’s Trench – Celebrity Status
- Mariana’s Trench – Sing Sing
- Rob Zombie – Dragula
- Sonata Arctica – Kingdom for a Heart
- Sonata Arctica – San Sebastian
- Sonata Arctica – Still Loving You
- Rev Theory – Hell Yeah
- Theory of A Deadman – Bad Girlfriend
- Saving Abel – Addicted
- Saving Abel – New Tattoo
- Jakalope – Witness
- Emily Osment and Josh Ramsay – Hush
- Hot Rod Herman – Dragula Remix
- Rammestein – Feuer Frei
- Enomine – Mitternacht
- My Chemical Romance – Black Parade
- My Chemical Romance – The Sharpest Lives
- Voltaire – Zombie Prostitute
- Voltaire – Vampire Club
- Voltaire – Brains
- Christina Aguilera – Express
- Christina Aguilera – Show Me How You Burlesque
- Christina Aguilera - Not Myself Tonight
- Christina Aguilera – Vanity
- Pink – You and Your Hand
- Pink – So What
- Danny Fernandes and Josh Ramsay -Hit Me Up
- Shinedown – Sound of Madness
- Shinedown – Devour
- Shinedown – Sin With a Grin
- Shinedown – Cry for Help
- Hammerfall – Hearts on Fire
- Hammerfall – Blood Bound
- Hammerfall – Natural High
- Dropkick Murphys – The Gauntlet
- Within Temptation – What Have You Done?
- Within Temptation – The Howling
- Within Temptation – Angels
- Nightwish – Amaranth
- Nightwish – Bye Bye Beautiful
- Cee Lo Green – Fuck You
- My Darkest Days – Porn Star Dancing
- Adam Lambert- For Your Entertainment
- Repo! The Genetic Opera - Zydrate Anatomy
- Paramore – Thats What You Get
- Paramore - Let the Flames Begin
- Paramore – Fences
- Versa Emerge – Fixed at Zero
- Papa Roach – I Almost Told You that I Loved You
- Papa Roach – Hollywood Whore
- Oingo Boingo – Dead Man’s Party
- Oingo Boingo – No One Lives Forever
- Symphony X – Accolade II
- Symphony X – Out of the Ashes
- Game of Thrones – Intro Theme Song
- Ascetic Junkies – Dracula
- Concrete Blonde – Bloodletting
- DJ Bobo – Vampires are Alive
- DJ Bobo – Pirates of Dance
- Army of Lovers – Crucifed
- Dragon Force – Through the Fire and Flames
- Dream Evil – Fight You to the End
- Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – Paris (Ooh La La)
- I am Ghost - Lovers Requiem
- I am Ghost – Killer Likes Candy
- Jonathan Coulton – I Feel Fantastic
- Jonathan Coulton – Skullcrusher Mountain
- Maroon 5 – Moves like Jagger
- The Trews – Not Ready to Go
- Princess and the Frog – Friends on the Other Side
- Selena Gomez – Naturally
- Tom Jones – Sex Bomb
- Tom Jones – You Can Leave Your Hat On
- Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London
- Young Artists for Haiti – Wavin’ Flag
- Drowning Pool – Bodies
- Rancid - Red Hot Moon
- Finger Eleven – Paralyzer
- Nine Inch Nails – Hand that Feeds
- Blackmore’s Night – Storm
- Blackmore’s Night – Rainbow Blues
- Bowling for Soup – The Bitch Song
- Christina Perri – Bang Bang Bang
- David Guetta - Love is Gone
- Flogging Molly – Black Friday Rule
- Freedom Call – Carry On
- Gackt – Vanilla
- Great Big Sea – Company of Fools
- Great Big Sea – Consequence Free
- Great Big Sea – Ordinary Day
A New Year is upon us, and its time to make changes to make us happier, healthier, and better people! Here are a few of my New Years Resolutions:
- Media exposure: be in at least three fitness magazines this year (features or articles written by me), and try to end up on the cover of one, or at least be in negotiation.
- Shoot with at least one of the photographers on my ‘must shoot’ list.
- Obtain a Sponsorship! This is the year I get sponsored – look out companies! I’m coming for you!
- Build up my shoulders – to create a visible, round shape
- Shoulder Press 35 lbs consistently, perhaps 40.
- Tighten my glutes, reduce cellulite.
- Increase cardio capacity/endurance
- Eliminate bread and wheat from my diet, in favor of brown rice and quinoa.
- Wean myself from ketchup!
- Be more creative in the kitchen, to post new exciting recipes on my website.
- Become versed in Italian
- Take dancing lessons, or bellydancing, increase my talent with pole fitness, and train in aerial silks.
- Learn to crochet (Already in the works!)
- Pay it forward more – participate in more random acts of kindness, at least once a week.
What are you resolving to do this year? Leave a comment and let me know – and tell me how you plan to do it!
When people start working out, they almost invariably go straight for their abs. And perhaps it is reasonable – the abdominal area is where people are most acutely aware of carrying extra weight, bloat, or softness, and it is the spot almost all people want to see direct improvement.
What’s more, having a great set of abs is the primary marker of ‘fitness’ in the general world. And when the abs don’t seem to be improving any more drastically than the rest of the body despite receiving the most attention, people get discouraged and begin to think that perhaps they are just not genetically capable of building a tight, lean six pack.
However, as we should all know, there is no effective way to spot-fix a body part. Regardless of how manycrunches you may do, an isolated focus is an ineffective way to change your body, especially when it comes to your midsection.
In order to train your abs for the best results, a full-body approach is necessary. In fact, if you are carrying extra weight in your abdominal area, chances are it is not the only culprit. Bearing this in mind, there are two key concepts that are crucial to building a strong foundation for ripped abs: Engage, and Diet.
Rather than going straight for the crunches, consider that the most effective way to see improvement in your abdominal areas is to hold off on direct and exclusive ab exercises until you have begun to reduce your overall body fat percentage. Why? Like all other forms of resistance work, ab exercise increases the growth of muscle, and muscle under fat has a tendency to look like more bulk.
This is why some people get discouraged with their middle thickness despite heavy ab workouts — they have the muscle, but the fat overtop is hiding their achievement. This is not to say ‘neglect your abs entirely until later on’, as this would be a serious detriment to your fitness goals. Strong core muscles (Abs, obliques, back, glutes, etc) are vital to all other types of workouts — without them, you could seriously injure yourself, especially while lifting.
So what do you do? You engage. Engage your core muscles in everything you do. Squeeze your core tight when you jog, when you squat, when you do jumping jacks, when you do push ups, when you lift weights, when you do pull ups, when you do ALL types of workouts. If you are doing squats and not even thinking about your abs, you are missing out on the full potential of what that move can do for your body! Is it not better to work more at once?
Abdominal engagement can be done anywhere – in the office, at home while cooking dinner, or even while enjoying your favourite evening TV show. By doing so, the strength in all your core muscles, especially your abs, will start to improve, while you are working on melting the fat from all areas of your body, and building a nice frame of lean muscle. You will be surprised, when they softness burns away, that you have a nicer, flatter stomach to work with, and finally give that extra attention to.
Here, the old adage of “abs are made in the kitchen” truly needs to be stressed! What you eat and how you eat are fundamental to the aesthetic results of your midsection; if your diet is not en pointe, shredded abs are not going to develop. Even the fittest of people will noticeably bloat and soften when they consume something full of sugar, fat or sodium – and this shows most in the midsection.
It must be emphasized that a diet full of processed, sugary foods will be a serious detriment to the fat burning process that will uncover your strong, toned abs. If you want to have a great six-pack, your focus needs to be on eating clean, eating at proper intervals, and most importantly, eating enough! If you’re not getting enough calories to support your caloric burn and exercise activity, your body will begin to cling to fat as a survival instinct.
Eating smaller, more frequent meals that comprise of lean proteins, whole wheat or whole grain complex carbohydrates and bountiful portions of veggies are the best way to ensure that you are left feeling satisfied and energized with every meal, while still shedding fat from your midsection to reveal your abdominal foundation. So never forget to think about what you are eating, and how that one thing will reflect on your body, especially when you want to see firm, taut abs.
Overall, these two key concepts are crucial for building the best, strongest and most aesthetic foundation for your midsection. Utilizing these tricks will help you to sculpt your abs into the six pack of your dreams!Details
I love sweet potatoes. Before I started eating clean, I had no interest in them, but they have become one of my favourite carbs to enjoy with my meals. And as a result, they have made their way not only into my every day diet, but to my holiday meals!
This recipe is one of the most delicious, indulgent-tasting holiday foods I have made to date, and I serve them as often as possible, to incredible rave reviews!
Spicy Sweet Potatoes
- 1-3 Sweet Potatoes, depending on the size.
- 1/2 tbsp Ginger
- 1 tbsp Cinnamon
- 1/2 tbsp Nutmeg
- 1/2 tbsp Brown Sugar
- 1 tbsp Chili Powder
- 1/2 – 1 tbsp Cayenne, depending on your spice tolerance.
- 1 handful crushed walnuts (if desired)
- Peel and slice the sweet potato into discs approximately one half inch to one inch thick
- Boil for approximately 20 minutes, until they are soft enough to be pierced through with a fork, without force.
- Drain and mash, add your spices. If needed, add a small amount of water to help the mashing process.
- Add crushed walnuts for presentation.
Because this topic garners a lot of questions and curiosity, here is a brief explanation of my lung condition:
As a child (~7), I contracted severe Pertussis, also known as Whooping Cough [I was unable to be vaccinated due to an allergy to the vaccine]. Unfortunately, the violent coughing left me with structural damage – which then led to the formation of scar tissue, which limits my air capacity, and slows down the rate at which I can metabolize oxygen. In short, I can’t breathe as fast, or hold as much air as the average person. And when this is strained, it can really hurt.
As a result of this condition, cardio has been extremely difficult for me. Through my school years I struggled through gym class, and was the last person to finish any laps, or timed runs. Hell, even a large flight of stairs or a moderate incline would leave me winded. (This is why people from high school would never suspect I would be a fitness model now!)
It took a long time to be able to perform cardio in any capacity. It was a very long, very slow process. Even now, tread mills and running are not my friends. But I know how to work around it. I know how to push myself effectively, without putting myself in danger. And every day, I’m getting stronger!
Just to be clear, my lung condition is just a part of who I am, and overcoming it is not what makes me a great fitness model or anything of the sort. I’m not going to push my story to win sympathy, or attention. I am proud of myself, yes, but I am a firm believer that the cards we are dealt are not what define us. But this is my story, and I’m happy to be frank and open about it because we all have challenges!Details