31 Oct

5/3/1 for Women – Cycle 10 Recap

I’m a bit behind on posting the recap of my 10th cycle of 5/3/1 (I’m nearly halfway through cycle 11 now).

5/3/1’s primary goal is to progressively increase your strength in the big lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press). You don’t have to waste time on minor muscle groups (holla if you loathe biceps workouts!) because muli-joint lifts target multiple muscle groups so you gain strength everywhere.

If you’ve been reading my blog the last while you know how much I love this programme but I’ll keep saying it over and over (I love this programme, I love this programme!) so that maybe one day you’ll give it a try. If you want to consistently get stronger you’ve got to follow a programme like this that has you pushing yourself harder and harder every week.

There. I’ve said my piece.

Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 for Women

Main Lifts

I’m happy to report that I’ve regained all my strength, you guys!

It took me 3 months to recover the strength that I lost with just 3 weeks of yoga teacher training.

I know it sounds totally ridiculous and it was a mental struggle for me to have to cut way back on my loads, but it worked to help me rebuild my strength. I’m excited (and also terrified, tbh) to move forward and start lifting heavier than I have before.

For cycle 10 I was working on the same loads as I completed in cycle 6 right before yoga Teacher Training. Compared to then, I’ve improved marginally in terms of reps, which I’m really happy about.

Deadlift: 240lb for 2 reps

Push Press: 125lb for 4 reps (PR’d that shit!)

Squats: 225lb for 3 reps (without a spotter!)

Bench Press: 120lb (added weight on Smith machine) for 3 reps

I’m so happy that I was able to push up more weight than ever with my push press this cycle (for 4 reps, no less!).

My bench press loads are increasing (very slowly, but increasing nonetheless) to the point that I definitely need a spotter to prevent me from crushing myself to death, or I have to use the Smith machine. I hate the Smith machine. It has it’s purposes, but everything feels so much easier because you don’t have to self-stabilize. It feels like cheating.

But I hate asking for a spotter even more. Most guys, if they don’t think you’re hitting on them, will take too much weight off and say “It’s all you! It’s all you!” No sir it is, in fact, all you. Plus as they lean over to help me I somehow manage to spit in their faces on an exhale and disgust us both. So until the husband makes his triumphant return to the gym (at the same time of day as me) then Smith machine it is.

Accessory Lifts

I don’t even know what I did this cycle. It was very unorganized, which is very unlike me. After my big lift I did a handful of exercises (usually 3 or 4) with a related muscle group, sometime for around 6 reps, sometimes for up to 12 reps. I’m not sure I liked this unorganized approach, but that’s what happens when you don’t plan your workouts before you get to the gym.

Unfortunately I haven’t planned anything better and I’ve been doing the same thing so far in cycle 11. Must rectify this situation.

28 Oct

On 90 Years and Being Happy

Nonna's Birthday


This weekend we celebrated my Nonna’s 90th birthday.

90 years, can you imagine? She was born in 1923 the year when, coincidentally, both insulin and the Milky Way bar were invented.  The year that Yankee Stadium was built. The year when the Ottoman Empire dissolved and domestic refrigerators were first coming onto the market. Nonna has seen a lot happen and experienced major changes in her own part of the world and in the world at large.

90 years is a long time. We don’t all get that many– my mom got just over half of that– but we seem to be moving in that direction as life expectancies go up.

It’s easy to get caught up in the carpe diem or you only live once culture. Everyone wants to be encouraged to chase their dreams and live every day like it was their last day on earth and do fun/exciting/crazy shit all the time. While that’s fine, life still comes with responsibilities. Life still means cleaning the toilet and going to work when you’d rather sleep in and changing crappy diapers and battling commuter traffic and paying bills on time. Life still has responsibilities that don’t go away because you’re going to die some day. Sure, you can live it up today like it’s your last day, but when you wake up tomorrow you may have to deal with the consequences.

Sorry for crapping all over your party but thems the facts, folks. That’s the reality.

One thing I learned from my grandmother is that the littlest things are awesome. Her gratitude for some of the most inconsequential things always seemed a bit over the top for me, but it’s genuine because there’s not much that she takes for granted. She never seems to be jaded by the simple things the way most of us are. She never strives for bigger and better experiences or ‘stuff’; she finds joy in every experience or object even if she’s ‘been there, done that, wrote the book’ a hundred times before.

I think that level of appreciation, of presence, of feeling that everything is special, is how you can feel like you’ve seized the day without always having to do something bigger or better.

You can’t carpe diem every diem. You can’t sky dive on your dream vacation after eating at a Michelin starred restaurant with your favourite actor every day. Maybe (let’s be honest, probably) you won’t even do that once.

Sometimes all you can do is seize hour or the second in between all the other crap that you have to do. Sometimes all you ca

n do is find something special about what you do have. Sometimes all you can do is try to see every experience with a fresh set of eyes like it’s the first time you’ve ever done it. Sometimes, instead of seizing the moment, all you can do is slow down and savour it.

Nonna's Birthday


26 Oct

Links for a Sunday Morning

How Yoga Might Save the US Trillions of Dollars and a lot of Lives – Forbes

If you look to neuroscience it tells us that stress, among other things, disrupts brain functioning, especially in the prefrontal cortex. And the same neuroscience is also saying there’s also class of practices that mitigate all of this: Mindfulness.

Why No One Actually Wants to Live Forever – Slate

What we forget when we focus on extending our lifespan as long as possible is that things make us happy because they are rare, finite, and therefore valuable and precious.

How to Build a Happier Brain – The Atlantic

Our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negative, which can make us feel stressed and unhappy even though there are a lot of positive things in our lives.

Pounding Pavement by Heel or Toe – NY Times

In essence, the findings show that you can’t escape the cumulative impact of running, however you stride.

Yoga and Football (video) – NFL.com

Thanks to an injury, Keith Mitchell had to make a 180-degree shift from the intense sport of football to the calm and soothing hobby of yoga. Find out how it changed the former linebacker’s life.




24 Oct

This body wasn’t built for asana


I got an e-mail today congratulating me on my new yoga website and asking me about my practice.

“Seems like your build differs from other yoga instructors, as you’re much more muscular + stronger than the norm. Are you trying to change your physique in that direction?”

Let’s be honest. When it comes purely to physiques I’m not cut out to be a yoga instructor. During yoga teacher training I became the poster child for joint compression in our anatomy discourse, wowing everyone with the pathetic range of motion in my extremities. Our anatomy instructor took one look at my shoulders and said (and I’m not making this up):

“Look at you! It’s like you’re wearing a suit of armour!”

Thanks. That’s exactly what every young lady wants to hear. o_O

In the past it would have concerned me to be reminded by another human being that I have the bone structure of an armadillo. I’m already reminded by the mirror every time I try on a cute strapless dress and see the reflection of a linebacker… in a cute strapless dress. (I’m lying. I don’t even try on strapless dresses any more.) But these days I’m much happier with my body as it is.

So no, I’m not trying to change my physique because I can’t change my bones or where I carry my body fat or the length of my arms (which, fyi, are not long enough for yoga). This body is all I’ve got so this is what I’m going to have to work with. This body will give me a greater appreciation for what I can do.

Yoga, or the practice of asanas as we think of it today, was made for men with long limbs and short torsos accustomed to sitting in lotus pose just for fun. The people who can best master the poses without props or variations have the bodies for it to begin with and, the thing is, most people don’t have those bodies.

But that’s okay because the awesome thing about yoga is that it’s about self-acceptance and self-awareness. It’s about breathing. It’s about creating a moving meditation. Anyone– any body– can do these things. What yoga isn’t about is perfecting postures.

So while I might not fit the physique of a typical yoga instructor, that doesn’t make me any less a yogi.

. . . and– just in case you’re wondering– no, I’m not going to stop lifting heavy weights. Body acceptance for me means knowing that my suit-of-armour bone structure was designed for power-based activities and I should take every advantage of it.

Plus nothing feels better to me than lifting something heavy.

21 Oct

New Yoga Website!

SamanthaMenzies.com is my brand new website with information on where and when I’ll be teaching yoga classes.

I did all the design work but special thanks to my husband for pulling it all together and making my very cool calendar (the most important part!).

My blog will still be housed at SamanthaMenzies.com/home. I’ll continue to post about my life, my workouts, and cookies, but maybe I’ll throw in a few more yoga related posts too!

If you want more from me, like my yoga facebook page and follow me on twitter where I mostly post inspirational quotes that’ll make you feel good.

SamanthaMenzies.com Website

20 Oct

Links for a Sunday Morning

10 Simple Ways To Eat Less Without Noticing – Summer Tomato

Your brain is easily fooled by shifts in perspective. It’s also more responsive to external cues like an empty plate, than internal cues like a full stomach. Understanding these influences can show you how to tilt them in your favor.

Michelle Obama’s Repeated Mistake – Dances with Fat

“The Biggest Loser,” is a show that’s exploits a very dangerous aspect of American life, the unhealthy ways in which we attempt to lose weight. Surely the First Lady had to know this.

Map: Six Decades of the Popular Girls’ Names, State-by-State – Jezebel

Baby naming generally follows a consistent cycle: A name springs up in some region of the U.S.—”Ashley” in the South, “Emily” in the Northeast—sweeps over the country, and falls out of favor nearly as quickly. The big exception to these baby booms and busts is “Jennifer”, which absolutely dominates America for a decade-and-a-half.

How Much Better is Standing Up than Sitting? – BBC News

As we had hoped, blood glucose levels fell back to normal levels after a meal far more quickly on the days when the volunteers stood than when they sat. There was also evidence, from the heart rate monitors that they were wearing, that by standing they were burning more calories.

Alcohol Education Is Not Rape Apology – The Atlantic

Men need this education just as much as women. Drunk young men are also at higher risk of violence, sexual and otherwise. Men also need to understand that having sex with an incapacitated woman is rape, pure and simple.

How Homestar Runner changed web series for the better – AV Club

The weirdos that populate Homestar’s world aren’t drawn from animated kids’ shows or even children’s books, but from another great American art form: the newspaper comic strip.

13 Oct

Links for a Sunday Morning

5 Surprising Yoga Cures – Prevention

Both the aerobic component of yoga as well as its meditative aspects relieve the symptoms of several major psychiatric disorders.

A Closer Look at Dr. Oz’s 15 Superfoods – Science Based Medicine

Oz’s latest list is a mix of both reasonable and silly dietary advice that repeatedly overstates the evidence, while ignoring the biggest determinant for obesity: calorie consumption.

Getting Rid of That Pesky Last 5 Pounds – GoKaleo via Huffington Post

Shifting your focus away from fat loss, and toward increasing lean mass, may be what your body needs in order to continue making progress.

Why are Hundreds of Harvard students studying Ancient Chinese Philosophy? – The Atlantic

The Chinese philosophers we read taught that the way to really change lives for the better is from a very mundane level, changing the way people experience and respond to the world

Five Thoughts on body Confidence on my 34th Birthday – Fit & Feminist

By the time women hit their 30s, they may have settled on a diet and exercise routine that works for them and. . . may be in long-term relationships that boost their confidence.

Childhood Friend Writes a Scathing Letter to Bridezilla – The Globe and Mail

The expense and the cost of the wedding is solely the responsibility of the bride, the groom and their families, and never the people who are attending.

10 Oct

Four Things

I darkened my purple highlights. It was unintentional but I think the darker purple better suits my dark eyes and eyebrows. The light purple was fading out so I touched it up with this dye in purple when I probably should have used fuschia. That’s why I’m not a hair stylist.

Purple Highlights

I’m surprised how easy it has been to pick up yoga teaching work. I have three classes of my own at my gym and I am on substitute teacher lists for two other studios. All I had to do was ask. I guess yoga is recession-proof.

Downward Dog

It’s party time! I always like to keep busy with events but these next two months are going to be out. of. control. There’s Thanksgiving, three weddings (2 of which my husband is standing in), multiple birthday parties, a Hallowe’en party, my sister’s baby is due, we’re going on vacation, and we have family staying with us from Italy. Whew, that’s a lot! But I’m looking forward to the whirlwind of parties because it means spending time with some of my favourite people.

Me and Nonna

One event is this lovely lady’s 90th birthday party. That’s my Nonna.

I finally watched the new Wallace & Gromit short, A Matter of Loaf and Death. Claymation, British entertainment, and bread is a culmination of my favourite things, not to mention that I love all the other Wallace & Gromit movies to the point that I frequently find myself shouting “We forgot the crackers, Gromit!” for no reason or asking Matt, “How about a nice Wendsleydale?” when we’ve never had Wendsleydale in our lives.

Wallace & Gromit

. . . and speaking of Gromit, I really wish I could have been in the UK for Gromit Unleashed where giant Gromit sculptures took over the town of Bristol.

Gromit Unleashed

07 Oct

Run for the Cure 2013


I can’t believe this is already the 8th Run for the Cure that we’ve participated in.

Run for the Cure 2013 (3)
Just a part of this year’s team, icancervive

Our team, icancervive, is a group of our friends and family who come together to have a good time, raise money for breast cancer, and remember my mom, Hiyan Campagna, who passed away from the disease in August of 2006.

Run day is one of my favourite days of the year. I always look forward to it because it covers all the things I love: getting together with family, doing something active, eating (we always go out for breakfast after), and, of course, my late mom.

Run for the Cure 2013 (5)
Matt and I, post-run

Every year is the same.

We wake up early and meet at the Windsor riverfront about an hour before the start of the run.

We don our team t-shirts and buttons and try to keep warm as we wait for the race to begin (except this year when we tried to keep dry, but at least it was warm!) .

My dad and his friends begin their walk, crossing the starting line extra early so they can finish around the same time as the runners even though they still have to wait for all the other walkers on our team to come in before we go for breakfast.

Run for the Cure 2013 (2)

Me with my dad and Silvia, who crossed the finish not long after I did due to their early start.

We watch Sandi, our teammate, on stage with the breast cancer survivors as a living representation of the outcome of all our fundraising efforts.

Run for the Cure 2013 (6)
My sister Vicki, our team survivor & top funraiser Sandi, and I.

We do a really cheesy warm-up that involves more hip rolling than is necessary for a 5K run.

Run for the Cure 2013 (4)
No fetuses were harmed in the making of this photo

And then we take off.

Not long after the starting horn, my cousin Jessica is already blasting through the finish line and winning the race. Her athleticism is an anomaly in our family.

Run for the Cure 2013 (1)
That’s Jess in the middle

Usually we have an even number of runners and walkers but out of this year’s 23 participants only 3 of us ran: Jess, my friend Kyle, and I. I ran in about 25 minutes which wasn’t bad considering I took a few walking breaks but, then again, the course is about 500m short of 5K, which is a pretty significant amount.

After everyone crosses the finish line we head out for breakfast as our after party for more socializing.

Run for the Cure 2013 (7)
Waiting patiently for our breakfast

This year we have raised over $2800 this year and over the 8 years participating in the Run for the Cure we’ve accumulated nearly $25,000 in funds for breast cancer research. Not too shabby, folks.

For more information on where all that money goes, check out the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation website.

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to participate and everyone who donated to the cause. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event!


Past Runs for the Cure:

Run for the Cure 2010

Run for the Cure 2011

Run for the Cure 2012

05 Oct

Links for a Sunday Morning

Why Scandinavian Prisons are Superior – The Atlantic

If you can’t tell whether you’re in a prison, can it be a prison?

And speaking of prison. . .

How Yoga is Helping Prisoners Stay Calm – BBC News

Yoga has made it easier for the prison staff to motivate the [prisoners] to change the behaviour that has brought them to prison in the first place.

Everything you need to know about Downton Abbey Fashion – Series 4 – Never Underdressed

Dresses fell far past the knee, in a sort of loose sack shape. ‘It’s like a uni-bosom that just goes on down. . .the clothes are sort of baggy really, it’s a cylindrical look that you’re getting.’

The Dangers of Going Gluten Free -Macleans

“All kind of questions are coming about for which we really don’t have good answers. Our problem is people going gluten-free without being properly counselled or checked out. It becomes problematic.”

And speaking of gluten. . .

Doctors Say Changes In Wheat Do Not Explain Rise Of Celiac Disease – NPR

Increase in celiac disease comes at a time when lots of other autoimmune diseases and allergies are on the rise, too.

The Mental Strain of Making Do with Less – NY Times

There is a paradox here: diets create mental conditions that make it hard to diet.

And speaking of mental strain . . .

How Intense Study May Harm Our Workouts – NY Times

Exercise simply feels harder when your brain is tired, so you quit earlier, although objectively, your muscles are still somewhat fresh.

You’re Not Fat – Dances with Fat

Being “not fat” is important in this society, so sometimes a woman will say “I’m so fat” so that someone else will say “You’re not fat” and she will be able to feel better about herself for a minute, or she’ll say “I’m so fat” because she knows that she is not fat by society’s standards and is reminding herself that she is “better” than fat people.