30 Mar

Links for a Sunday Morning

The Overprotected Kid – The Atlantic

It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting.

Mirror Mirror – RadioLab

How mirrors (and the reversed images they reflect) lie to us.

The Toxins that Threaten our Brains – The Atlantic

Leading scientists recently identified a dozen chemicals as being responsible for widespread behavioral and cognitive problems. But the scope of the chemical dangers in our environment is likely even greater.

Industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’? – The Guardian

Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most “detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners”, allowing them to “continue ‘business as usual’ despite the impending catastrophe.”

Why Beyonce is Wrong this Time – The Globe and Mail

Rather than saying, “My daughter is bossy,” [parents] should say, “My daughter has executive leadership skills.” The implication being that these two things are not only interchangeable, but that one defines the other. As anyone who has dealt with a dictatorial five-year-old knows, this is not generally the case.

ANALYSIS: The Ukraine crisis through the whimsy of international law – CBC News

That’s diplomacy. Hypocritical declarations and acts are woven into its essence. What’s remarkable is the unspoken pact among the Western news media to report it all so uncritically.

Body-Image Pressure Increasingly Affects Boys – The Atlantic

Movies and magazines increasingly display bare-chested men with impossibly chiseled physiques and six-pack abs. “The media has become more of an equal opportunity discriminator. Men’s bodies are not good enough anymore either.”

Yoga Poses in Israel – NY Times

Students, taught in single-sex classes, are encouraged to come as they are, even in day clothes or long skirts, if necessary.

Neurobiology of Grace Under Pressure – Psychology Today

All of the physical symptoms of performance anxiety—racing heart, sweaty palms, dry mouth, upset stomach, shakiness—are the result of your vagus nerve disengaging. Luckily, you have the power to harness your vagus nerve and keep it engaged to create grace under pressure.

What Your Activity Tracker Sees and Doesn’t See – NY Times

The accelerometer measures only motion, not exertion — no matter how hard you’re straining yourself or how heavy the deadlift is.

21 Mar

International Day of Happiness

Today was the UN’s International Day of Happiness. A day for remembering that happiness is not about accumulation of wealth and goods but about the day to day experiences of community, security, nature, and the simple pleasures of life.

The UN launched a big social media campaign to raise awareness to make happiness a global priority and to reframe economic growth in a way that is inclusive of citizens’ happiness and well-being.

I was all over it on my yoga facebook and twitter pages, posting pictures of things that make me happy to remind me of all the great things that are going on in the world (counteracting stories like this and this).


My dad My husband, and travelling with my husband My husband, and travelling with my husband DSCF4295 Happiness Day

14 Mar

5/3/1 Cycle 15 Recap


So, uh, yeah. I know I said this at the beginning of my last 5/3/1 recap, but cycle of 5/3/1 was indeed UNREAL folks.

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

The last time that I had recapped with you at cycle 11 I took a step back in my training programme and repeated cycle 11 because I wasn’t quite prepared for the targets that I was supposed to reach.

Sometimes you have to cut back to make progress, and progress I did indeed make.

Not only did I break all of my Personal Records last week but I had this especially exciting news. . .

I bench pressed my body weight!

Finally! I’ve had this goal for 2 years now though have been making the most effort on it in the last 14 months or so.

165lbs wasn’t actually part of my calculated lifts for this cycle, but when I pressed up 160lbs for 3 reps (mostly on my own, but with a bit of the husband’s help on rep 3), Matt encouraged me to try 165lb, my body weight.

I was so ecstatic when I pressed the weight up all by myself.

Goal, achieved. Boys working out beside me, jealous. Even my dad was impressed (and he is, by nature, not an easy man to be genuinely impressed).

My bench press goal was so exciting it overshadowed all the other loads that I hit last week, and they were pretty impressive in themselves.

Main Lifts

Again, I can’t even believe these numbers are real.

Deadlift: 265lb for 1 reps

Push Press: 135lb for 1 rep – finally put up 45′s on the bar!

Squats: 250lb for 2 reps

Bench Press: 165lb for 1 rep – did I mention, that’s my body weight?

I haven’t calculated my loads for cycle 16 yet so I’m nervous about what I’ll see, but I’m also very excited too.


I mentioned last week that my friend, a holistic nutritionist in training, gave me a diet to follow to help me gain muscle. I had initially gained a pound right away but I lost it again so I’m back at where I started.

I’ve averaged 2500 cal per day with a 36% fat, 44% carb, 20% protein mix.

Aside from not having put on weight yet, I have been feeling much more stable (emotionally) and I my sugar cravings have been reduced which I attribute (I think) to having more fat in my diet. Or it could be more muscle too. Or it could be just eating more in general and not withholding food only to binge on sweets later. Not sure yet. I only know it’s working so I’ll keep it up.

I intend to keep tracking my macros and following her recommendations because 1) I’m her guinea pig and want to give her accurate results, and 2) I’m liking it so far.

Will check back in with progress as I squeeze in time. Things have been hectic lately :-P

09 Mar

Links for a Sunday Morning

The Most Visited Countries in the World – Gizmodo

If you’ve ever wondered which country was the most popular tourist destination, wonder no longer.

10 Places to Go While They’re Still Cheap – Airfare Watchdog

Whether you’re on the prowl for a perfect beach or a city bursting with culture, these cities and countries deliver big but cost little. Not all of them will stay cheap in the years to come, though, so if you’re inspired to go, do it soon.

Why the Olympics are a lot like The Hunger Games – The Nation

Now I understand my failure to connect to the pomp of the opening ceremonies, the confused emptiness that consumed me as I stood in the cold of a Turin winter, wrapped in the American flag, wincing under the cruel glare of a thousand flashbulbs. The real function of the Olympic athlete in the world of corporatized sports is clear to me now. 

5 Surprising Health Benefits of Yoga – Huffington Post

Yoga increases flexibility and reduces stress, but the practice can do more than help you twist your body into pretzel shapes and find inner peace.

The Pollutants in your Face Wash – Marketplace

Lots of personal care products—like facial scrubs and even some toothpastes—are jammed with little plastic beads.  When they go down the drain, they end up in our lakes and rivers, by the millions.  They’re too small to be filtered out by water-treatment systems.  

The ‘Shocking’ Outcome of the Biggest Loser is not all that Shocking – Fit & Feminist

That shit is not inspirational.  It is DANGEROUS.  These are the tricks of eating disorders dressed up with dramatic music and lighting and turned into mass entertainment.

Our Bars and Too Loud and Cafes are Too Quiet – Slate

For centuries, bars and cafés around the world have fostered dissent and bottom-up political action. Cafés, especially, have bedeviled the authorities as long as they’ve existed. 

In the Name of Love – Slate

Labor is not something one does for compensation but is an act of love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, presumably it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient.

03 Mar

Holistic Nutrition Recommendations

I’m currently acting as a guinea pig for my friend Sarah who’s studying for her Holistic Nutrition certification from CSNN.

Sarah needed a group of volunteers to act as case studies so she could perform assessments to determine our nutritional needs and get feedback from us as to whether her recommendations are working out.

My Goals

I’m always up for some help in the nutrition department, especially with a holistic bent, and I’m a unique candidate in the sense that I’m a female who is not trying to lose weight but looking to put on lean muscle (ie. gain weight) instead.

I’m hoping to eat well for optimal energy, to put on lean muscle, and to get stronger and improve my weight lifting.

Sarah was happy to take me on as a case. She asked me 4.2 billion questions about my goals, my health history, my mood, my bowel movements…all that fun stuff… and then gave me a list of things to incorporate into my diet to improve my wellbeing and gave sample mealplan of the calories and macros I should be eating.

I implemented her recos last week.


Sarah suggested that I eat:
2400 calories with the mix of 20% protein, 30% fat, 50% carbohydrates.

It’s a reasonable amount of food and should be sustainable for me (I mean, the girl incorporated a cookie into my daily meal plan, how can I not love that?).
I found that I’ve been eating more on days that I weightlifted and less on days I didn’t, but overall I averaged right around the 2400 mark. The mix of fat is a bit higher than I currently eat which she said I need in order to to support hormone function, muscle growth, and calm my crazy sugar cravings.

She also offered me other recommendations like:

- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar daily for a lot of reasons like burning body fat and aiding digestion and bloating after meals

- I could use a magnesium supplement for PMS symptoms (much needed!) and muscles recovery.

- I probably have a tryptophan deficiency which causes crazy mood swings. I need more tryptophan foods like spinach and red meat

- My mood swings, along with my complete lack of concentration, might also be because my adrenals are in a resistance phase. She recommended a B complex and maca.

- I should incorporate turmeric into my diet. It’s an anti-inflammatory which can help prevent arthritis (which runs in my family).

- I need more cholesterol to increase testosterone production to get jacked.

. . . among other things.

I e-mailed Sarah this weekend with a longwinded, probably-too-detailed e-mail chronicling how things have been going.

Results, Week 1:

So far, so good. I’ve gained a pound this week. My mood was generally stable and my sugar cravings a bit less intense. I felt a bit bloated and had a couple of headaches midday during the week, but other than that I generally felt well.

I’m going to continue to implement the recommendations for several more weeks and see how this all goes.

Sarah and I

Sarah and I

22 Feb


I’ve been talking about snowshoeing for a long time but I’ve never gone because winters in Essex County tend to be dry and have huge temperature ranges so that any snow that does fall melts in about the time it takes to make a snowman.
Not so much this year, with temperatures on par with Iqaluit and more snow than we’ve seen in, um, ever.
So this past family day long weekend I bought my first pair of snowshoes (on sale, by the way) and headed off into the winter wilderness. I’m trying to take advantage of this weather as much as I can.


Hiking in Essex County is boring since it’s flat as the prairies down here, but for some reason hiking through snow is way cooler. I tried navigating my way through a forest (challenging, with all the fallen trees and thorny bushes) and through a farmer’s field (far easier but not quite as interesting), places that I don’t venture to in normal circumstances.

Snowshoing in Flat Essex County

I got a pair of these TUBB’s women’s 25″ trail walking snowshoes. Nothing too intense. They work really well and I sink maybe 3 inches in about 12 inches of snow, so not too shabby.

I’m itching to use them again. It’s an awesome exercise that’s more fun that work (which is how I feel about hiking in general). I put in a solid 4 hours of hiking last weekend because the weather was perfect.

Snowshoeing in the woods

The BIG disappointment is that not a week after my exciting snowshoe purchase we got a big warm front and the clouds have opened up to rain. The snow is melting folks and I don’t like it. I’m holding out that the winter is not over yet (March is a fickle little month) and I’ll have a chance to use my snowshoes again this year.

Snow Angel in Essex CountySnowshoeing in Essex County

I’m not ready for winter to be over. Because that means spring. Sam doesn’t like spring.

If not, there’s always Algonquin. Snowshoe road trip! Winter 2015.

14 Feb

Valentine’s Day – repost

This post is from 2012, but me feelings about valentine’s day still hold true.

Valentine’s Day was probably my favourite day as a kid. I don’t care what anybody says, nothing beats celebrating Valentine’s Day between the ages of 6 and 12 in the good ol’ grade school days.

You spend an entire weekend afternoon writing out valentines on those little perforated cardboard cards to everyone in your class and sealing them with kisses.

You make sure to scrutinize each pre-written message so that your friends get the “Best Friends” cards, your crushes get the “Be Mine” cards, and those kids that you don’t even talk to get something generic like “You’re A-okay valentine!”.

Or maybe just the girls do this. Yeah, it’s probably just a little girl thing.

This card would definitely have been reserved for the grade school ‘love of my life’

At school you make a little paper bag with a heart and your name on it and you go around spreading the Valentine’s day joy into each person’s bag. Everyone is excited and happy and running high on the sugar from candy hearts.

I’m not gonna lie, I still have most of my valentines cards from grade school. I don’t even keep cards from my family and yet those cards from kids I don’t even see anymore are still hiding in the nightstand at my dad’s house.

That atmosphere of excitement is entirely lost when you reach high school and you’re not friends with everyone anymore. People start dating and it feels like Valentine’s Day is just for couples and you feel left out of the fun. But it’s even more distant when you’re in a relationship and you feel pressured to go over the top for Valentine’s Day with flowers, and fancy dinners, and heart-shaped jewellery.

But for me, it’s about small thoughtful gestures, random acts of kindness, and candy. And of course the paper valentine’s day cards.

This year Matt and I plan to stay in and order take-out and relax with a house full of dogs (we’re dog-sitting 2 other dogs this weekend). Luckily Bagigis found her valentine too:

Bagigis and Corbyn

11 Feb

The French Baker Cookbook Review

The French Baker Cookbook (2)

The French Baker: Authentic Recipes for Traditional Breads, Desserts, and Dinners by Sebastien Boudet

I was really excited to review this book because I the only thing I love more than baking cookies is baking bread. And the only things I love more than baking bread is eating it.

What I Didn’t Like About the Book

There was a lot of detail that was left out of the recipes. It wasn’t challenging for me to put the pieces together because I have years of experience with baking a variety of breads, but someone new to baking would surely be confused. Even I had questions regarding re-feeding sourdough, shaping loaves, and kneading.

Bottom Line: when it comes to baking, this may not be the best book for beginners.

The French Baker -Baguette Recipe (2)

What I Liked About the Book

The book itself is gorgeous. The pillowy hardcover, the matte pages, the beautiful photos of rustic French food, markets, garden, and towns. The writing is romantic, describing the baking process passionately and painting an idealistic picture of French food culture. The author tells a story rather than just providing recipes; I like that.

I was expecting a tome on how to perfect sourdough, but the book contains more than that, more than just baked goods even. It is broken up into sections including sourdough bread, sweet bread, cookies, desserts, and hearty baker’s meals.

The French Baker Cookbook (1)

The recipes that I made came out awesome. I was skeptical about the baguette recipe while I was putting the starter together, but it came through and ended up being one of the best baguettes I’ve made.

The French Baker -Baguette Recipe (3)

La Baguette

The baguette is France’s most popular and most purchased bread- and it’s the worst f their selection of fine breads! The baguette you normally find in stores and bakeries is a fluffy white bread without crust or colour. But with the help of the poolish method you can create beautiful and tasty baguettes. The Polish people brought this leavening method to France at the end of the 1800s and it is based around letting three-fifths of the bread go through prolonged autolysis of 12 hours. The small amount of yeast creates a snowball effect which begins the whole leavening process and produces airy bread with simple but clear sourdough flavour. The method is perfect for making baguettes.

Makes 5 Baguettes

8 cups (1kg) wheat flour + 5 cups (600g) wheat flour
1g fresh yeast
4 cups (1kg) water
45g coarse sea salt

Day 1

Prepare the poolish by whisking the 8 cups of wheat flour, yeast, and water in a large bowl until you have the consistency of pancake batter.

Cover the bowl with a baking towel and let leaven at room temperature for 12-16 hours.

Day 2

After 12-16 hours of leavening the dough should be doubled in size and will smell really nice.

Pour the 5 cups of wheat flour onto a baking table. Create a dent in the middle and pour the poolish from the previous day into the dent along with the sea salt. Mix and knead the dough (there is no need for autolysis since 3/5 of the dough has already rested for 12 hours with the water) until it releases from the table. Shape the dough into a ball and let it rest under a baking towel for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into five equal parts and shape each one into a small ball. Let rest for a couple of minutes under a baking towel.

Carefully shape the balls into baguettes. If you notice that the dough begins to tear, you can let it rest a little bit longer so it can recover.

Sprinkle flour liberally on the baking towel and place the first baguette on it. Create a fold in the towel as a barrier and place the next baguette alongside the fold.Alternate between fold and baguette until the towel is covered, that way the baguettes won’t touch each other but will support each other.

Sprinkle flour on top of the baguettes and cover them with another baking towel. Let the baguettes leaven at room temperature for 3-4 hours or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 500F with a baking stone if you have one.

If you have a baking stone, roll the baguettes from the baking towel onto a floured pizza peel (or to the back of a baking sheet that has been floured). Otherwise, you can place the baguettes carefully onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Score the flour dusted baguettes lengthwise (carefully and not too quickly as they can lose their structure). Note: never score baguettes straight across.

Bake the baguettes in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Let the baguettes cool down on a rack for at least 45 minutes.

The French Baker -Baguette Recipe (1)

09 Feb

Links for a Sunday Morning

Russell Brand: My Life Without Drugs – The Guardian

Drugs and alcohol are not my problem, reality is my problem, drugs and alcohol are my solution.

The Problem With DOVE – The Illusionists

Dove’s parent company is Unilever, maker of Axe, Fair & Lovely and Slim-Fast

Scientists create stem cells without embryos - The Globe and Mail

If it works in man, this could be the game changer that ultimately makes a wide range of cell therapies available using the patient’s own cells as starting material – the age of personalized medicine would have finally arrived.

Pump it up! Weightlifting ‘cuts diabetes risk in women’ - BBC News

They believe the explanation may be partly down to maintaining a greater muscle mass to act as a buffer against diabetes.

The Intersection Of Nutrition And Mental Health – KathEats

Not only does our society encourage us to eat when we feel emotions. . . but we also have psychological and physiological pathways that reinforce that eating certain foods when stressed makes us temporarily feel better.

What Happens to Your Body When You Do Yoga - Women’s Health

A regular yoga practice can lower your resting heart rate—in and after class.

Downward Facing Drones - The New Inquiry

After several years of intense practice, I became concerned about my increasing eagerness to look impressive and strong in classes, to show off my body’s capability instead of attending to the more nuanced aspects of asana, to hold certain poses for competition’s sake, to actually enjoy the inability of others to do what I was doing.

Can you guess the Sport by the Shape of the Olympian’s Body? - Daily Mail

Project by photographer Howard Schatz has laid bare the wide spectrum of body types belonging to 125 athletes

30 Jan

5/3/1 for Women – How To


I dig 5/3/1 so hard.

I have never had so much success with a weight training programme as I’ve had with this 5/3/1. I’ve been working through it for over a year now (which, in itself, is saying something) and with it I’ve seen tremendous strength gains and I’m never bored.

I got a facebook message from a reader asking me for some more detail on how the programme works so I figured it was high time for another update on the how-to’s of 5/3/1.

What is the 5/3/1 Programme?

It’s a weightlifting programme created by powerlifter Jim Wendler that focuses on building strength.

5/3/1 revolves around the basic multi-joint lifts: squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press.

The plan is based on a slow progression of reasonable and attainable strength over time.

You really have to be able to commit to several cycles to see results. It may seem slow going at first, but you are able work toward your goals while still seeing some motivating improvements that keep you going.

How does it work?

Find Your Base Loads

Figure out the maximum weight you can lift for one rep (or a good estimate of it) for the following lifts: squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press.

Take 90% of that number (eg. if your 1RM is 100lb, use 0.9*100=90lbs). This is your base load from which you will determine how much weight you will lift for every workout.

Plan Your Workout Days and Rest Days

Each Cycle of the plan is four weeks—three weeks of strength building and one week for de-loading and recovery.

The Cycle is based on 4 workouts per week—one of the four major lifts (bench, squat, deadlift, overhead press) each day. Figure out a way to spread out your workout days and rest days to fit everything in so that it works for you.

I like to workout two days back-to-back with one or two rest days in between, eg) Sun, Mon, Wed, Thu.

Week One – 5 Rep Week

You’re working in the 5 rep range this week. For each workout day, calculate your reps and weights as follows:

Warm up: As many reps as necessary at light weight.
Set 1: 5 reps at 75% of base load
Set 2: 5 reps at 80% of base load
Set 3: At least 5 reps at 85% of base load (if you can do more than 5, then do as many as you can)

Repeat the same structure for each of squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press day, using the appropriate base load for that exercise.

Week Two – 3 Rep Week

You’ll be working heavier for fewer reps this week. For each workout day, calculate your reps and weights as follows:

Warm up: As many reps as necessary at light weight.
Set 1: 3 reps at 80% of base load
Set 2: 3 reps at 85% of base load
Set 3: At least 3 reps at 90% of base load (as many reps as you can)

Repeat the same structure for each of squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press day using the appropriate base load for that exercise.

Week Three – 1 Rep Week

You’ll be repeating some of the loads from the last two weeks for sets 1 and 2 then you’ll go for as many reps as possible at 95% of your base load for your final set.

For each workout day, calculate your reps and weights as follows:

Warm up: As many reps as necessary at light weight.
Set 1: 5 reps at75% of base load
Set 2: 3 reps at 85% of base load
Set 3: At least 1 rep at 95% of base load (as many reps as you can)

Repeat the same structure for each of squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press day using the appropriate base load for that exercise.

Week Four – De-load Week

This is your deload week for recovery. You will perform exactly 5 reps in each set with lighter weights, never pushing yourself to failure. For each workout day, calculate your reps and weights as follows:

Warm up: As many reps as necessary at light weight.
Set 1: 5 reps at 60% of base load
Set 2: 5 reps at 65% of base load
Set 3: 5 reps at 70% of base load

Repeat the same structure for each of squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press day using the appropriate base load for that exercise.

I’m done a Cycle, now what?

When you’ve completed a 4 week cycle, it is time to progress your loads.

Add the following weights to the one rep maximum that you determined at the beginning of the 4 weeks:

Squat + 10lb
Deadlift + 10lb
Bench Press + 5lb
Overhead Press + 5lb

(eg. if your 1RM for bench press was 100lbs, your new 1RM is 105lb)

Using these new numbers, recalculate your Base Loads for each exercise, and start a new cycle!

You can do as many cycles of the programme as you like. You could practically cycle this programme forever.

What if I didn’t hit my targets?

If you don’t make the calculated load in any of the exercises, go back and re-calculate your 1 rep max and start over.

I generally step back 2 cycles which drops my 1RM by 20lbs for squat and deadlift and 10lbs for bench and push press.

What else do I do besides the 4 main lifts?

That’s up to you.

Wendler recommends adding additional exercises called ‘assistance work’ to each workout day to supplement your 4 major lifts and assist you with your goals. These are some of the plans that he recommends:

Assistance Plans

Boring But Big. Main lift, the main lift again for 5 sets x 10 reps (50% 1RM), and another accessory exercise for 5 sets.

The Triumvirate. Main lift, and two assistance exercises – 5 sets each.

I’m Not Doing Jack Shit. Main lift, and nothing else.

Periodization Bible by Dave Tate. Main lift, and 3 exercises – 5 x 10-20 reps each.

Bodyweight. Main lift, and 2 bodyweight exercises such as the pull up, sit ups, dips, etc.

This post from Muscle & Strength gives some good examples of accessory work.

This All Sounds like a Lot of Math, Lunks don’t do Math

Errr…sure they do?

But, if you want to keep it brainless anyway then lucky for you I’m an Excel Wizard by day and came up with this 5-3-1 Training Calculator.

No calculations needed (not even the base load!). You just have to know your one rep maximum for squats, deadlifts, bench press, and push press. The calculator will figure out the rest.

Just pop in your one rep max for each exercise into the calculator where the red arrow is and it will spew out the loads that you’ll be using for the next 3 full cycles of the programme.

Easy like Sunday morning.

Click here to download the Calculator Spreadsheet

How’s it working for you?

I love it so much. I love knowing exactly how much I have to lift each day. It pushes me to work harder every single week.

Since November 2012 I’ve made some pretty big improvements in my lifts.

Squats: 185lb to 235lb (27% improvement)
Bench: 135lb to 150lb (11% improvement)
Deadlift: 225lb to 250lb (11% improvement)
Push Press: 105lb to 130lb (24% improvement)

On paper they may not look like much, but it is extremely challenging to make modest improvements when it comes to strength training, so I’m really proud.

I had a few setbacks during the year (as a result of a 3 week yoga teacher training and a 2 week vacation) and I had to step back a few cycles in order to regain my strength. Overall, though, it’s been awesome and I’m going to keep on keeping on.

I’ve already set some new goals for myself and plan on using 5/3/1 to attain them:

-165lb bench press (ie. a body weight bench press)
-275lb deadlift



If you want to know more about how the programme works, check out this post on Muscle and Strength. It’s super comprehensive.