HIIT IT

No words today.

Just this fantastic new HIIT workout.

Perfect for the treadmill or the pavement. Obvs I’m happiest in the outdoors but I live in Canada and I’m a bit of a wuss, so it’s good to have something that works both ways.

Feel free to swap out some or all of the light jog sections with brisk walking. Just pick it up for the runs and it’ll still kick your booty into 2013.

Enjoy it!

Sweat about it!

Then tell me how it goes.

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Worknight Circuit Workout

Hey there pals.

Remember this face? Image

A heavily moustached hipster (because it’s Movember of course!) with a brand new workout to share!

Life lately, you ask? Well things have been busy as ever and I have barely had time to water my miniature cactus let alone blog.And fitness? Jeez. If I make it to the gym once or twice a week, maybe fit in a nice outdoor run now and then, I’ve been a happy girl.

Keeping my expectations realistic has been keeping me sane. 

But since the clocks have changed and the days have gotten shorter, I’ve been making an effort to up my activity level just a bit. Getting moving always improves my mood and regulates my sleep schedule, two things that I tend to struggle with during the many many winter months we have here in Toronto.

I’m sharing my workout with you today because it was a great mix of cardio and strength but didn’t totally knock me out. In other words, it was perfect for squeezing in at the end of a long work day. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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And remember, even when I’m not blogging, you can always find me on pinterest and twitter!

Have a great night! TGIalmostF!

Sweat About It

With yesterday marking the official first day of summer it seems only appropriate that we’ve been hit by a real honest to goodness HEAT WAVE. And for all you Americans who don’t believe we get heat up here in the North country, how does 35 degrees outside but feels like 40 (aka. 95 but feels like 104?). Toronto ain’t playin around.

So obvs I can think of no better topic for today’s post than SWEAT itself. Or more specifically, how I’ve been workin up a sweat this week.

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Pras on the ‘Pod, Plenty of Hydration & Lots of Sunshine got me in my sneakers for some pre 8am sweatyness.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a workout so I thought I’d share my new HIIT routine. It can be done in the gym using a treadmill, elliptical or bike but I am currently all about using it when I run outside. It starts off fairly easy but definitely builds in intensity as you go which is why I have dubbed it…

The Slow Starter HIIT Workout

It goes:

3 minutes moderate
1 minute fast
1 minute slow

Repeat x 5.

A few notes:

– During the moderate sets try to maintain a pace that allows you to breath comfortably and carry on a conversation if you really had to. Your heart is pumpin but you’ve still got your wits about you.

– During the fast sets you are working hard, your chest is pounding and the occasional profanity is probably the only language you could muster. You’re still not in an all-out sprint because you need to maintain it for a minute but you’re pushing yourself.

– During the slow sets you are relaxed and returning your breath to normal. This should not cause you any strain at all.

*If you’re looking for some suggested MPH on the treadmill I usually do around 6-6.5 moderate, 8-9 fast and 3.5-4 slow. When I track my pace outdoors using the Runkeeper App it’s virtually identical. I’m a shorty though so pay attention to your own bod and breathing to find the pacing that’s right for you.

What are your favourite ways to get sweaty in the summer months? I’m open to any and all creative suggestions! 😉

“Yoga Freelancing”: A Guide to Self-Led Practice

I know I’ve been mentioning my heart-on for yoga lately so I thought it was about time I discussed exactly what that looks like for me. Much like my flexitarianism, my relationship to yoga is highly personalized and often awkward to explain. However I think I hit the nail on the head lately when I told a friend: I’m definitely not a yogi …more of a yoga freelancer.  

What I mean by that is that I love to practice yoga but I do so without a set studio, instructor or schedule. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the typical yoga studio experience but it just doesnt always suit my lifestyle, namely because it tends to be:

Costly.

No matter how you slice it, boutique yoga studios are expensive. And because yoga often supplements other forms of activity, the costs are typically above and beyond your already maxed out “fitness” budget.

Competitive.

I know many yoga studios now focus on a “non-competitive” atmosphere, but it’s still challenging not to compare yourself to others in the class. No matter how zen I get, there’s still a little Type-A voice in my brain telling me I should be going for that headstand…especially when that scrawny blonde over there is doing it and she could barely manage the proenza  bag she walked in with.

Inconvenient.

As far as timing goes, I’m never sure quite where yoga practice fits into my day. Evenings are already so busy and while early mornings would be ideal, there are virtually no studios near my apartment. **My neighborhood is still in those awkward early stages of gentrification where like, I know where to go for an almond milk latte but my bike’s still gonna get stolen while I’m ordering.

While these things could have put me off the mat completely, my new MO is to apply my DIY philosophy to my yoga practice which brings me to the main event here…

The Healthy Hipster’s Guide to Self-Led Yoga
(which you can practice at home, in the park or under a nearby waterfall…Im looking at you Portlanders…Portlandians?)


Note: It is important to attend guided yoga classes prior to practicing at home to ensure you understand how your body should be aligned in each posture. This will be important for avoiding injuries.

BASIC TIPS

1)      Set a time frame: How long do you realistically want to practice?

2)      Set specific physical goals: How do you want your body to feel at the end of your practice?
Eg. I want my core to feel stronger. I want my shoulders to feel more relaxed.

3)      Set an intention: How do you want to feel mentally at the end of your practice?
Eg. I want to feel

4)      Find a space where you feel comfortable completing your practice.

5)      Move through a basic routine, adding or adapting postures to meet the physical goal you’ve chosen for that day.

ROUTINE TEMPLATE
(Click to Print)

Adapted from here
For tips on additional poses or images of the ones I mention below Yoga Journal is a great resource. 

Warm up:

Seated deep breathing and move into cat/cow postures to stretch out your back.
Move through 5 rounds of sun salutations. On the last round remain on the ground.

1) Standing postures.
Choose 2-3 then repeat leading with your other leg.

Push up into downward facing dog, then step forward into a lunge. Raise arms above your head and hold this deep lunge for 5 breaths
Move into Warrior II, hold for 5 breaths. Move into reverse warrior hold for 5 breaths. Back to down dog.
Repeat on the opposite side.

2) Balance Posture:
Choose 1 and repeat on both legs.

Step forward and return to tree pose then move into a standing balance posture (opening your hips and resting your foot above or below the knee of the opposite leg, holding your foot then extending your leg out in front of you, etc.). Hold for 8-10 breaths.
Repeat on other leg.

3) Back Bends, Folds and Inversions
Choose 1-2 back bends followed by 1-2 folds and 1-2 inversion postures.

Use a sun salutation to bring you back to the floor, move into baby cobra and hold for 5 breaths releasing. Then full cobra and hold for 5 breaths.
Push into child’s pose for 3 breaths.
Transition from child pose to a seated forward bend. I like to hold for 5 breaths then release 3 times to really fall deeply into the stretch.
Extend and stretch your body along the floor then bring your legs up and over into plow pose (make sure you protect your neck and back by placing your arms on your lower back). Extend your legs up into the air if you feel comfortable doing so.
Add  wheel pose for serious strength and stretching.

4) Twists. 1-2, repeated on both sides.   

Laying on your back bring your knees down to one side, keeping your shoulders on the floor and gazing in the opposite direction. 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Come into seated and move into a seated twist (my favourite one is called half lord of the fishes….it also has the best name)

Cool down:

5 minutes of savasana or relaxation pose.

And that’s it!

What are  your thoughts on self-guided yoga? Too intimidating? Or worth a shot? 

INSPIRATION & RANDOM ACTS OF NEON

If last week felt like carefree summer in Toronto, this week felt like nose-to-the-grindstone fall. The weather turned grey and drizzly, work got busy and hectic and the city went into a bit of a miniature hibernation. Despite my love for all things hustle bustle, it is often during these downtime days/weekends/weeks that I get the most inspired creatively. Perhaps that’s why I’ve almost exclusively chosen to live in grey, rainy cities (Amsterdam/Halifax/Prague/Oviedo/etc)

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Here’s a little rundown of how I channeled my creative chutzpah this week…

1) DIY PROJECTS: NEON ACCENTS

Vintage Granny Chair + DAYGLOW PIPING

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Neutral Colourblocked Vase + SAFETY ORANGE

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2) SIMPLE, COLOURFUL, BALANCED MEALS

Loaded up on kombucha.

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Oatmeal bowls made for me and my dad (topped his with organic yogurt, mine with extra nuts and berries)

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Lentil hummus and roasted veggie stuffed chard wrap with a pile of squash and sweet potatoes (possibly ate half of these directly off the baking sheet) and a redundant side of greens and chopped apple for crunch.


Baked salmon served on a mountain of roasted veggies (potatoes, squash and brussel sprouts)

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3) YOGA x A MILLION


One of the things I’ve enjoyed so far about my 6 x 6 plan is that it has encouraged me to listen more attentively to what I actually want to do rather than mindlessly following some fitness schedule. Some days this means hauling ass to the gym in the middle of my workday to sweat like. Other days it means leaving the gym behind and going for an evening walk with my bestie and her pup.

This week my body was craving yoga almost every day and I was more than happy to oblige. Of course by early Sunday morning it became clear why I’d spent the week in stretchy/gumby/relaxation mode…

6 x 6 Update

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Monday: 1 hr yoga class
Tuesday: ZILCH. I had no energy all day and couldn’t put my finger on why…
Wednesday: 75 minute super sweaty gym session. Full of beans. Random.
Thursday: 1 hr walk with my pal and her pup.
Friday: 1 hr Hot Hatha Yoga.
Saturday: 30 self-led morning yoga. 30 minutes cardio LIFE (hoofing it back to the city carrying 2 gigantic bags of laundry I did at my dad’s place…cause I’m a grown-up like that)
SUNDAY – MONDAY: Surfin the Crimson Wave (TMI?). But it explained all my wacky energy changes as well as my need for serious yoga/stretching time. Both of these days I put my plan on the back burner and gave my bod the rest it needed.

I did however complete multiple sets of the following circuit workout, which I highly suggest you try:

1) Dip a big piece of banana in almond butter
2) Dip nut buttery banana in vanilla coconut yogurt
3) Dip nut buttery, vanillafied banana in brown rice crispies
4) Douse in cinnamon
5) Nommmmm…..

Repeat this circuit to tummy fatigue.

Does dreary weather inspire you to get productive or does it leave you in a funk? How are you channeling your creative energies this week?

6 x 6 Update: The Week I Walked My Keds to Shreds

So last week I made a plan to incorporate a moderate amount of physical activity into my daily life (approximately an hour, give or take) 6 days a week for the next 6 weeks. I have no rules beyond that and I am completely open to whatever form that activity takes. I’m excited to see how these “workouts” progress and change as the 6 weeks go on but here’s my rundown of Week 1

Monday: Walking, 45 mins (4.2km).

Last Monday was a holiday here in Canada and I wasn’t about to spend my day off getting sweaty in the gym but this ended up being the perfect activity to start off my plan! I ended up going to check out the UK film Stud Life at the Inside Out LGBQT Film Festival at the Bell Lightbox Theatre (the swankiest spot to catch a flick in the city when and if you get the chance) and I was so glad I did. Even when it was a little over the top it was charming & one of the characters spent the whole film wearing a green carnation. CUTE!

T’Nia Miller in Stud Life.

As I left my house I made the decision to walk rather than take the streetcar. Just a simple switch but one that allowed me get moving and enjoy the unseasonably warm evening hours we had this weekend. It also set the precedent that the next 6 weeks aren’t about strict athletic (or aesthetic) goals, but about enjoying the physical and emotional benefits of a little activity everyday!

Tuesday: Quickie Run & Mini Workout, 30 mins.

I had to pop over to gym to sign up for the membership I got for free with work (perks!). I didn’t have much time and I knew that I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable using the equipment the first time around, so I just threw on my running shoes and jogged (which for me is usually intervals of sprinting and quick walking) there and back. I did a few bodyweight excersizes on the mats when I was there too but not a whole lot. The juiceheads scared me off.

Wednesday: Stretching, Cardio & Strength, 1 hr.

This was my most conventional workout of the week. I hopped over to the gym at lunchtime and got my sweat on with a warm-up, some short intense intervals (20 mins) and then weighted squats, lunges, planks & pushups.

Thursday: Walking, 50 mins (3k +)

I thought maybe this would be my off day but after 2 afternoon walks during my coffee and lunchbreaks and meeting my friend to help him shop for clothes after work I realized I’d covered some serious pavement.

Friday: Skipping warm up & bodyweight strength training, 40 minutes.

A few minutes of skipping to warm up followed by 30 min bodyweight strength training before work using this video by Zuzka. (Note: I am not a fan of the bodyrock videos for reasons I won’t get into but I do enjoy the ones ex-bodyrocker Zuzka produces on her own now. Sure she’s a total babe and the videos are ridiculously hypersexual, but I don’t have a problem with that. I find her motivating, fun and easy to follow plus these videos are great on days you can’t make it to the gym).

Saturday: EPIC WALKING, all day (5km+)

I spent the whole morning casually strolling through the Beaches in the East end of the city, stopping along the way to enjoy some local colour (caffeine) and soak in the sunshine. Then I took public transportation all the way West to The Junction and somewhat unintentionally ended up walking back home from that neighborhood. This part of the walk alone was 4km. My legs were jelly by the end of this day.

Sunday: OFF! Grocery shopped, cooked, watched GIRLS. Aka. the essential components of life.

And that’s that!

How’d you fare?
Get in any new or unconventional workouts this week? I’d love to hear how you got movin this week!

6 x 6 SUMMER SHAKE-UP CHALLENGE!

Good morning, lovelies!

While it might look like and feel like summer outside, in my mind we’re not in the thick of it until July 1st when the temperature skyrockets and the city air turn that familiar hazy yellow. So, in anticipation of the summer months I’ve decided to embark on a new SUMMER SHAKE-UP CHALLENGE. Notice how I said SHAKE up and not SHAPE up? That’s because while I’ve borrowed the 6 week countdown idea from all those beach-body/eat-nothing-but-steamed-cauliflower-til-september workout plans, that will be as far as the similarities go.

MY COMMITMENT:

To move my CONSCIOUSLY move my bod in new and challenging ways 6 DAYS A WEEK for 6 WEEKS leading up to the summer season!

  • Time: No set time. I will aim for 60 minutes/day, but am already resigned to the fact that an hour will not always fit my schedule. If 20 minutes is all I have, it is enough and it is excellent.
  • TypeDiversity is CENTRAL to this plan. Since my body is always happiest when I am doing a mix of strength, cardio & stretching I will work on balancing these areas throughout the 6 days. I will continue with the activities I currently enjoy but try to add in some new ones for fun and variety. As it stands my plan will include a happy blend of the following:

bodyweight strength training (at home and/or at the gym)
– yoga
– HIIT style cardio in the form of sprinting and skipping (at home/outside)
– kickboxing
– freeweights (at the gym)
– sports
– walking/hiking.

FAQ:

This sounds too easy, why choose this approach as opposed to a more detailed workout schedule?

In my experience, consistency keeps me in the best physical and mental shape when it comes to my workouts. If I start getting too goal-oriented aroundexactly how much cardio I get in or how intense my workouts should be I always end up feeling disappointed and often bail on workouts out of frustration. BUT when I set flexible, attainable goalsjust a little something everydayI actually enjoy what I’m doing and the motivation to push myself naturally follows.

What do you mean by moving “CONSCIOUSLY”? I thought you said you were a “hipster” not a “hippie”!

Touche. But let me explain. We all move our bods a little bit every day but we don’t always think about these actions as contributing to our overall health or fitness. Walking around the office, making breakfast, running to the bus, etc. are all physical (Cardio LIFE as I often call it) but we overlook them because they seem mindless and incidental. On other hand, a “conscious effort” is a physical activity we participate in for no reason other than its benefit to our bodies and health. I believe that the feelings of satisfaction, self-worth and empowerment we derive from fitness are as much a result of the decision to act as they are from the action itself. So in the end it doesn’t matter whether your decision is to take the stairs to your apartment or to the top of the CN Tower, once you’ve made that decision and follow through, you’ve won. At life.

I’ll do my best to keep you posted on all the movin and shakin I’ve been doing, the eats that will be fueling all this newfound activity chutzpah & of course keep writing about other important stuff too, just to keep it all in perspective.

SO WHADDYA SAY? ANYONE ELSE WANT TO JOIN THE 6 X 6 SUMMER SHAKE UP CHALLENGE?
I’d love to have some partners in crime! 

CLICK HERE to download a printable worksheet so you can follow along and fill in your own 6 x 6 challenge updates!

In-a-Hurry Lunch/Dinner/Workouts/Life

I have worked a lot of jobs in my life (barista, waitress, tap dancing instructor, teacher, au pair, web designer, researcher, marketing consultant, etc.) but until this week I had never actually worked in a 9-5 office environment. But bright and early Monday morning I started a dreamy dream job working for an non-profit I really believe in doing work that I love. But the hours behind a desk, the office culture & my ears popping every time I take the elevator? All that will definitely take some adjusting…

This week I was far too busy getting mentally prepared for my new job to do much planning for things like food or fitness but I’ve been just barely getting by by cutting corners wherever possible.

1) Workouts

I’m currently between gym memberships so it’s been all about the outdoor running lately. For cardio I have lovingly found my way back to this pyramid interval run because it is super quick and always leaves me panting. And while I’ve been pretty light on strength training due to my lack of gym access, circuit workouts like this one (jotted down on a random envelope?) are definitely doing the trick.

Repeat this circuit for 10-15 mins for a short and sweet (and by sweet I mean suprisingly hardcore) workout!

2) Dinner/Lunch Combo Prep

 Seriously people, even if you don’t have time to do an epic weekly meal prep on Sunday afternoon, you can always prep your lunch while you make your dinner. Such a simple idea but one that has totally saved my dress-pant-wearing butt this week.

Tonight, for example, I whipped up a quick little dinner of one-pot curried cauliflower & pumpkin stew (topped with some pan fried haddock, basil & lime)

This isn’t a full on recipe but in case you’re interested…

Directions

Sauteed a handful of chopped carrots, a chopped celery stick and 2 cloves of garlic in sesame oil. Once fragrant add 2 cups cubed fresh pumpkin, 2 cups cauliflower & 2 cups of veggie broth  then simmer until all the veggies are very soft and you can lightly mash them with a fork. Finally season to taste with curry powder, soy sauce, ginger and a little squeeze of agave…then top with basil, lime & siracha for the perfect one pot dinner!

And now on to lunch…

Since those ingredients were already out of the fridge and handy I decided I would whip up a second dish that I could use as the base for my lunch tomorrow…

You’re shocked, I know. It’s a kale salad. What can I say? I’m easy to please! This salad is dressed in sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, lime juice, flax oil & agave then topped with sunflower seeds and chopped carrots. All the ingredients used in the previous recipe just repurposed with lunch in mind! A simple way to save time prepping lunch (or money buying it!)

Do you work in an office? How do you usually prep for the busy week? 

Fitness Apps: Help or Hindrance?

What a beautiful morning it is here in downtown T.O! The sun is shining brightly, the skies are a vibrant blue & I am double fisting coffee and kombucha like a post-rehabed, pre-weirdfaced Lindsay Lohan.


Peculiar beverage combinations aside, I wanted to take today to nerd out a little and discuss Fitness Apps. 


(source)

For a good long while I thought that using applications on your phone to track fitness goals was a waste of time for someone like me, considering I am not in training for anything in particular nor do I have a desire for either weight loss or a substantial amount of weight/muscle gain. However I realized over time that certain apps actually would make my life a little easier and (just like everything in the health/finess world) I could take advantage of those good helpful bits and ignore the other stuff.

So I’ve compiled a little list of the apps I really do use on a regular basisand the ones I haven’t found so useful…

First up…THE HELPS

1) Standard Stopwatch.

No downloads necessary. Just use the straight-up stopwatch that comes with your phone to measure cardio, interval or strength excersizes that go by time as opposed to reps.

2) RunKeeper

Don’t be scared off by the name, I use this free app all the time even though I’m not a “runner” because it has some really useful functions including:

  • GPS to map your runs or walks when and if you do run outside.
  • Detailed information about your distance and speed (much more accurate than you’d get on a treadmill)

  • And (my personal favourite): The  Coaching function. It lets you set interval workouts  in advance, then gives you verbal cues about when to switch as you go. I use this for indoor and outdoor cardio as well as during strength training as an easy a hands-free timer!

3) Fitness Pro

I recently discovered this app but so far I’ve really been enjoying it. It’s totally free and has a massive library of exercise suggestions AND instructions so you can put together a customized plan that works for you. Customization is crucial because your workouts will vary a lot based on what equipment you do (or don’t) have access to.

It also has a whole anatomy section where you can choose which muscle groups you want to work and it will provide you with suggestions for what to incorporate into your routine. Very informative. A great way to break out of a workout rut and mix things up a bit!

THE HINDRANCES: 

1) Calorie Counting Apps. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Food tracking is a slippery slope and one that I don’t recommend for anyone, even those with weight loss goals. I genuinely believe food restriction is an addiction and one that we are all highly susceptible to. Becoming mindful of serving sizes and enjoying balanced meals and snacks made with unprocessed foods is a much healthier and infinitely more sustainable approach…And sadly there ain’t no app for that.

2) One Size Fits All Workout Apps. 

These include things like the Women’s Health Magazine app, the Nike Fit App & basically anything preset. In my experience the suggestions are good but too rigid and don’t take into account what your personal needs are. Plus you usually pay for workout apps like this and there are typically a limited number of workouts to choose from. And you guessed it….new workouts come at a cost! Better to find your workout inspiration online (for free!) then manually input it to a customizable app.

So…what do you think about fitness apps?

Do you have any faves? Would you consider trying one of these?
Or is the whole thing just too nerdy and not worth the effort? 

Finding Stability: At-Home Yoga/Strength Fusion Workout

This was just one of those weeks for me where everything felt like it was in upheaval. I’ve been apartment hunting, job hunting (I love what I do but am searching for something more permanent and stable), spring cleaning and even re-evaluating friendships. My family members, though loving and endlessly supportive, are each facing their own set of transitions right now, which leaves me without that “home base” feeling that others rely on in times of change. In other words life, as of late, has lacked any semblance of stability.

Oh and then I cut off all my hair…. 

Ignore my pouty expression, I actually love it. 🙂

In times like these, developing my physical strength, flexibility and balance reminds me that these are qualities I inherently possess and I can trust that (with a little patience) my life will manifest them as well.

So today I am sharing a stability-promoting, at-home, equipment-free, totally empowering and energizing Yoga/Strength Circuit Workout. It takes around 20 minutes and is structured in a pyramid, “superset” format.

  • Pyramid because you work your muscles hardest in the middle but begin and end with lower impact yoga postures
  • Supersets because you complete two excersizes in the same muscle group back to back with no rest between.
  • Fusion because each superset is made up of one yoga-inspired move and 1 strength-inspired move

If you require instruction on any of the exercises I mention here are some useful links:

Basic Sun Salutation
PlankBicycle Crunches
Side Plank
Warrior 2
Lunges
Donkey Kicks
Bridge 

Do you find comfort in physical activity when life leaves you reeling?
What are some of the most “empowering” yoga poses or strength training exercises you do?