19 Feb

15 Minutes to Fit Review

I got a copy of Zuzka Light’s new book 15 Minutes to Fit recently (disclaimer: it came from the publisher) so I figured I’d share my thoughts on it.

I’ve seen Zuzka in the past on BodyRock.tv where she used to post videos of short home workouts. I was never fully into it (you know how I like weightlifting) but I did do some of the workouts from time to time so I’m familiar with her style.

 

The premise of the book is 30 day challenge style: transform your body with healthy recipes and 30 days worth of 15 minute home workouts.

15 Minutes to Fit Review

First of all, I’m not a fan of her catch phrase: “Give me 15 minutes a day and I’ll give you a badass body”. I hate using aesthetics as a motivator for fitness. I think my body is pretty badass already, Zuzka, even if you can’t see my rectus abdominis.

As for the recipes, I’ll be honest and tell you that I tried precisely zero of them. I read her backstory at the beginning of the book then pretty much just dove straight into the workouts. Each of the workouts has about 4 to 6 different exercises can be done in limited space with no equipment. The exercises are done consecutively for the prescribed number of reps and then the whole series is repeated for as many rounds as you can do in 15 minutes.

When I took on the first workout, it almost killed me. I literally thought: this is how I will die. I realized later that anemia was the real reason that wind was knocked out of me. But! that’s not to say that these workouts aren’t intense. They are a serious challenge to endurance, strength, and agility.

Overall, I liked the workouts in this book. I found myself on multiple occasions turning to the book for workouts when I was stuck at home or only had a really short window of time to workout, so it was perfect.
The exercises involved a lot of plyometrics so if just the idea of 15 minutes of jumping makes your joints ache then this might not be your thing.

Likes:

-really quick workouts that still felt like workouts
-no equipment needed
-was able to squeeze in a workout when I otherwise wouldn’t have thought I had time
-creative and challenging moves

Dislikes:

-the philosophy that ‘looking good’ is the primary motivator for exercise
-not a lot of modifications offered for the really tough stuff
-heavy on the plyo; ie. very high impact
-a number of the workouts were repeated, so there were not 30 unique workouts

27 Jan

Fit Chicks Fierce in 8 Giveaway!

Fierce in 8

I recently reviewed the Canadian based fitness company FIT CHICKS’ new 8 workout DVD set.
The workouts are all high intensity interval training, under 30 minutes, and inspired by a different form of exercise so there’s something for everyone. The boxset also comes with a meal plan and healthy recipes, providing a complete workout and nutrition plan.

Interested in trying the FIT CHICKS high intensity interval home workouts for yourself? You’re in luck! I’m offering a chance to win your own copy.

Enter to win by doing one or more of the following:

1. Comment on this post about how you work out at home.

2. Tweet “I want to win @FitChicks Fierce in 8 from @SamanthaYoga http://bit.ly/1uVoiy4” from your twitter account.

3. Like this facebook post.

 

You can get up to three entries, one for each.

Contest Expires February 1st at Midnight EDT.

CONTEST CLOSED – Winner: Laura Ryan (Facebook)

24 Jan

Fit Chicks Fierce in 8

When it comes to workouts, anyone who has been following my blog knows that I tend to focus on lifting heavy weights, practicing yoga, and occasionally running.

I’m not really one to do fitness videos at home, though I have tried a few like Tracy Anderson Mat which was awful (Really. It was SO bad.) and One-on-One Training with Jackie Warner which I liked but didn’t stick with.

And yet the Canadian fitness company FIT CHICKS still seemed to think that I might be a good person to review their new workout DVD boxset and meal plan called FIERCE in 8. Naturally, I agreed.

Fit Chicks

The boxset contains 8 different HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts that combine short burst of cardio followed by strength training for recovery. Each workout is under 30 minutes and is inspired by a different form of exercise like tabatas, plyometrics, mixed martial arts, and bootcamp.

The exercises definitely got me to work up a sweat and increase my heart rate but I found that one video wasn’t really enough for me. So every time I popped a video in I would do two of the workouts back to back.

I liked the martial arts inspired workouts the best, like Fierce Fighter Chick and Boxing Babes, because I really like punching and kicking the shit out of nothing in particular (and sometimes people, but that’s a whole other story). No joke. They were energetic and tiring and a good way to release some general frustration.

The boxset also comes with a meal plan, healthy recipes, a green smoothie guide, and a 8 week schedule to plan out your FIT CHICKS workout days and rest days so you get a complete workout and nutrition plan.

Overall I thought the whole FIERCE in 8 system was ok. I’m not going to stick with it because home workouts aren’t really my thing but that’s not to say that I don’t think they’d be useful to other women who want a short workout that they can squeeze into their busy schedule without having to leave home.

If you think you might be interested in giving the program a try, I’ll be giving away the FIERCE in 8 boxset to one lucky reader in my next post. Stay tuned.

25 Nov

Goodbye Lifestyle Family Fitness

This week is my very last week teaching yoga at Lifestyle Family Fitness, a local chain of gyms here in Windsor, and I’m pretty sad about it.

I had two to three regular classes at the gym with a core group of regular students that challenged themselves to get stronger, were open to trying new things, and were dedicated to their yoga practice.

I had a reputation for being a challenging instructor but over time I was told that my classes were getting a bit easier (though, still, not quite easy). They weren’t. The yogis were just getting stronger. . .

. . . And it’s been fascinating to see the gradual changes in their strength, mobility, balance, and most of all their focus. I learn something new from my students every time I teach and I am going to miss them.

I’m not leaving by choice. Well, not exactly. The gyms will all be taken over by GoodLife Fitness on December 1 and I may have had the choice to stay on as an instructor with GoodLife, but I haven’t. Their requirement of exclusivity would have limited the number of classes I can teach in a week, and it would have prevented me from teaching in other areas around the community like the prenatal yoga classes, the AAA hockey team, and the one-off workshops that I love teaching.

So this Sunday will be my very last class with Lifestyle and I want to thank all of my students and the community of excellent yoga teachers with whom I shared the schedule.

I know I’ll see everyone’s beautiful smiling faces around in other yoga classes throughout Windsor’s small and tight-knit yoga sangha.

Last Week at Lifestyle

06 Feb

Work Out ‘Like a Man’

I recently read this post in The Cut: I spent Two Weeks Working Out ‘Like a Man’ and I was slightly annoyed.

The author writes about a 14 day period in which she tried out a bunch of different workouts she determined to be ‘manly’, like Crossfit, P90X, Martial Arts, and Bootcamps.

Kick_boxing
(source)

Showcasing to women these workouts that traditionally appeal to men is an awesome idea. The author could have done so much to encourage women to add them to their fitness regime.

For one, she could have refrained from defining male and female dominated exercise styles as mutually exclusive. She might have highlighted all the great fitness and women’s health benefits that come with these workouts, or the fact that women are often welcomed and made to feel comfortable in male dominated fitness environments, or the fact that the challenge of trying new workouts can be extremely rewarding.

But she doesn’t. So, to me, the article is a total failure.

cross fit women

Instead the author draws the line in the sand about what makes a workout ‘manly’ (we’re trying to break down these stereotypes and she just sustains them). She complains about the smell of the mats in a Muay Thai gym, laments about how she couldn’t keep up in many of the classes, and dramatizes about how her unbearably soreness is making simple daily tasks impossible for her.

Woman Flexing

Even I don’t want to try any of these workouts after that sort of review. Evidently neither do some of the commenters:

“I’m pretty happy with Tracy Anderson‘s workouts”

“I will stick to my yoga, spinning, and elliptical circuit, thank you. Just reading about not being able to put my shirt over my head is not appealing to me personally.”

Men should feel comfortable in a yoga studio or aerobics class. Women should feel like it’s okay for them to lift weights or kickbox. Can we just stop with the stupid exercise stereotypes already?

I think it’s awesome that the author tried out so many new exercises (and I’m kinda jealous too). Trying new forms of fitness is a great way to learn new skills and discover a new passion. But by framing the article around the fact that the workouts she chose to try are traditionally preferred by men does nothing to encourage women to try them out.

She missed a great opportunity to get women excited about trying something new.

13 Dec

Regroup, Refocus, Reflect

Get Your Workout On – from Etsy

I’ve been feeling a bit bloated lately in a way that always makes me totally uncomfortable with how I look and how I feel.

It makes me start to second guess myself and all my healthy living progress and think things like

I’ve probably been eating too many cookies

I must be slacking in my workouts

I shouldn’t have cleared my plate at that restaurant

So before I start on a downward spiral toward fat talk and bad self-esteem I need to regroup, refocus, and reflect on all my healthy lifestyle habits as a reminder that, hey, I’m doing ok!

I eat breakfast every day.

I load my cart with vegetables at the grocery store.

I cook dinners from scratch at least 4 days per week and I eat leftovers for lunch every day.

I eat out once and maybe twice per week.

I prioritize exercise and do it regularly and consistently.

I keep variety in my workouts with heavy weightlifting, interval training, yoga, and steady state cardio.

I life-hacked a standing workstation at my office to reduce my sedentary time.

Given all that, I think I’m doing a pretty good job at maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Of course, no one is perfect and some bad habits have been starting to creep up that might need to be nipped in the bud:

I have been drinking a lot more caloric beverages lately– lattes, sweetened coffee, hot chocolate, or beer (umm… ’tis the season?)

I haven’t been taking the dog for as many long walks.

My fat consumption lately has been more bad fats (mmm. . . butter) than good ones (still mmm, but not quite so much. . . avocado)

Slowly I’ve been incorporating more processed grains into my diet whereas I was trying to focus on solely unrefined ones.

It makes me feel better to pause and say, this is what you’re doing right and this is what you’re doing wrong, rather than just flying off the handle and telling myself I’m a failure at being healthy just because I feel a little bloated. I’m not a failure. I’m doing a lot of the right things.

02 May

Conditioning Drills: Terrible Twenties

In keeping with the theme of crazy conditioning drills last night I decided to bust out Terrible 20s.

Terrible Twenties – a sprinting drill sandwiched between a shit tonne of push-ups and sit-ups.

You need a space of at least 50 metres to do this drill, so I jogged over to a portion of the trail near my house that’s a bit quieter so people wouldn’t see the crazy girl running back & forth a million times.
I guesstimated and marked off a distance of 50m which, due to my poor distance perception, I later discovered was actually 150 metres. Blast! I worked harder than I had to (no wonder the sprints were so tough!).

Here’s how the drill goes:

It took me about 50 minutes or so to finish the whole thing for a total of:

2000m of sprints (6000m in my case)
210* push-ups
210* sit-ups

Intense.

*Math Nerd Alert: It is exciting that my knowledge of the ‘sum of consecutive integers’ formula finally could be put to use in the real world.

21 Apr

WWF CN Tower Climb

Saturday April 21 marks the date of the 22nd Annual CN Tower Climb for the World Wildlife Fund of Canada.

cnt_badge_23185

In 2008 I was unwed and was working and living in Toronto. Coming from a very small city myself, here were a lot of things that I disliked about living in the big city. But I did appreciate a lot of things about it too—the holiday window display at Holt Renfrew, the eggplant sandwiches at the St. Lawrence market, Hallowe’en in the gay village (and the neighbourhood in general, for that matter), getting free swag daily at the corner of Yonge & Dundas Square, and seeing Dallas Green on my walk home from work to name a few.

One thing I especially loved about living in Toronto was having access to so many different events all year round. There was always something going on. Things that I wouldn’t necessarily travel all the way to Toronto to do, but that I took full advantage of while I lived there.

CN Tower Climb 2008 3

The CN Tower Climb was one of them.

1,776 steps (144 flights of stairs) to the observation deck of a Canadian landmark and the world’s second tallest building.

I took part in the challenge in 2008 after about 30 minutes of undemanding and lax training on the gym’s stairclimber. So with my only experience based on a set of stairs that rotated on a belt under my feet and daily practice in my fourth floor walk-up apartment, I hadn’t the slightest idea of how long it would take for me to climb 144 flights of stairs.

Getting Started

I gave myself a general goal of 30 minutes and hoped for the best.

When I got to the event I learned that you’re not allowed to carry anything while you climb. Nothing. At all. No cell phone, cameras, iPods. Not even water!

I was determined to bring my camera up with me though because I did the climb by myself and I wanted a picture at the top to prove I did so I hid it in one of the millions of pockets in my cargo pants and figured I’d be okay if it were hidden.

Once I finally finished the trek from the event check-in to the start of the climb I discovered that we had to go through a security checkpoint and guards with metal detector wands. This was not going to bode well for me. I contemplated turning around and heading all the way back to check my camera, but I decided I would take the risk.

When it was my turn to be wanded, a combination of sleight-of-hand, misdirection, and my irresistible charm miraculously keep the guard from noticing the camera in my pocket. Phew! I was in the clear.

I made it to the stairwell and got started.

The Climb

The stairwell leading to the observation deck was dark, narrow, and windowless with a dampness from the sweat of the climbers that made me feel like I was climbing the General Brock Monument, except this stairwell never seemed to end.

The number on each flight of stairs was stencilled on the wall so you could keep track as you went up. For the life of me I couldn’t remember how many flights there were, so I tried not to pay too much attention to how many I completed because I had no idea how many were left to go.

I had a solid pace going. One step behind me the entire way was a very fit woman whose own pace was the keeping me motoring. I wanted to be fast enough so she wouldn’t have to bother going around me and that she wouldn’t step on my heels. And I didn’t want to let her down since she spent much of the climb cheering on the people that we passed on the way up (and frankly we passed a lot of people).

When it got to flight 135 I was starting to tire. I called out to everyone around and no one in particular

“135! How many more flights?!”

“30!” Some woman responded.

30?!? I couldn’t keep this pace for 30 more flights, I knew that much so I let my partner pass even though she encouraged me to “keep my pace, almost there!”

In 9 more flights I was at the top. Only 9. Bitch! I cursed the girl that told me I had 30 to go. I could have kept my pace for 9 flights of stairs.

But I made it in 18:32. Not too shabby I daresay and well under my ambiguous 30 minute goal.

CN Tower Climb 2008 2

And I got a picture of myself at the top of the tower in all my sweaty glory!

CN Tower Climb 2008

Would I do it again?

I can’t decide.

I found the stairwell itself to be uncomfortably hot and dark, and very confined.

When finally you get to the observation deck there are a million people there which makes it tough to appreciate.

It was nice to do once, but I don’t know that I would care to take part in the event again. Maybe for the sole purpose of improving my finishing time.

CN Tower Climb 2008 4


Notes:

1) I apologize if it is arrogant of me to post an event recap 4 years after the fact. I guess I should take it as a cue to do something fun and exciting now in 2012.

2) I cannot believe how small my arms were in 2008. I still have that climb t-shirt and it is much tighter on the biceps these days. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

3) The fact that my ass is also bigger than version2008 is definitely a good thing.

25 Feb

Kettlebell Swings

My sister sent Matt and me home from Illinois with a 16kg kettlebell that she’s had lying around in their apartment for a while now. It was on my Christmas wish list and Matt’s too.

Don’t be fooled– a 16kg kettlebell is heavy. I was just barely able to squeak out a solitary Turkish get-up in poor form. I definitely can’t bicep curl it. I can, however, swing it with relative ease.

The kettlebell had been in the back seat of my car, but the thumping it made when it rolled around made me think I hit a pedestrian, so I moved it in the house and got it as far as the front door where it’s been for the last few days.

The other day when I came in the house I did 12 kettlebell swings and decided to make it a thing for Lent– do 12 kettlebell swings whenever I get home.

Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width, each foot pointed outward.
Keep your shoulders pulled back and down to avoid rounding your back.
Squat down and swing the kettlebell back between your legs. 

Thrust your hips forward, straighten your legs, and swing the kettlebell up overhead, keeping your arms straight. (I couldn’t get a picture right at the very top of the swing, so this is my progression up to the top)

07 Feb

Weightlifting Check-in

I get random, unforseen urges to test my fitness from time to time. I’ll be sitting in my cubicle at work fighting off the compelling impulse to get down and do as many pushups as I can. I could be at my dad’s house and I’ll absolutely need to go into a headstand. I will get up from a cozy reading spot on the couch to do a wall sit for as long as I can. It’s really a curious behaviour of mine.

Tonight before my leg workout I tested my push-up ability. It wasn’t a compulsive impulse though, I was checking my progress toward my 100 push-ups Beast Mode goal.

Drumroll please . . .

I can do 28 push-ups before crashing. I still have a lot of work to do!

Today was the last day of my most recent 4 Day Upper/Lower Body Split Weight Training Plan (download here). I noticed that I had lost a bit of strength when getting back into it after the marathon but I’ve made pretty decent progress and I’m pretty happy with how the last 4 weeks have gone.

Particularly for these exercises:

Squats: increased from 155lb to 165lb
Bench Press: increased from 105lb to 115lb
Turkish Get-Ups: increased from 10lbs to 25lbs (<– HUGE!)
Close Grip Bench Press: increased from 50lbs to 80lbs

Here’s my Week 1 vs Week 4 progress for all exercises:

Next Steps:

I’m going to keep with the same exercises for the next 4 weeks, but make a few changes to how I do it.

1) Do push-ups first
2) Superset the arm (ie. biceps & triceps) exercises
3) Superset the shoulder exercises
4) Increase rest time to 2:00-3:00 rather than my current 1:00-2:00 for the heavier lifting (squats, bench, deadlifts, etc)