Fitness Friday – Don’t Forget Your Own Lessons

We’ve taken to watching Bill Nye Saves the World on Netflix recently and one particular episode titled “This Diet is Bananas” had a panel discussion that really got me thinking about how I’m tackling this lifestyle change, as well as how I’m dealing with the physical exhaustion and the lack of motivation that I’ve been feeling lately.  The fact is, despite my positivity about moving forward I have been slacking a bit lately and while I’d say I’ve not fallen off the wagon, I’m definitely hanging off the edge.

On the panel the psychologist and the fitness coach had a bit of a disagreement about motivation; particularly about whether or not it was enough for people to change their bodies in a way that they want. The psychologist’s view was that motivation and will power do not last and while we can put our energy into these things, the fact is that even if we resist the bowl of M&M’s for a few minutes, hours or even days, eventually we’re going to put our hands into the bowl and undo everything our will power had done. This view is quite defeatist and suggests there is only so much we can change about our bodies since a large portion of weight (they suggest 70 some percent) comes from genetics and how you were raised.

The fitness coach on the other hand suggested that it is her motivation that gets her up every morning to work her ass off in the gym so she can maintain the way she looks (which was amazing by the way) and that doing that lets her know that sometimes she can give in and have a few M&Ms without undoing her progress.

The big part of me that wants to change my body sides with the fitness coach of course, because the other side very much leaves me with no chance of ever seeing the major changes I want to. But I do believe there is a lesson in what the psychologist says, and it’s something that I’m quick to remind other people of but still seem forget myself and that is that motivation is not a constant.

I don’t know about all of you, but I do not wake up every day pumped to work out and totally excited to be drenched in sweat. Many days it would be easier to lay in bed, to eat whatever you want, and to not worry about what you’re doing with your body. But other days we count every calorie, we put our all into a HIIT routine, and we truly do take care of ourselves. Some days you will feel ready to conquer the world and some days you will wish you could get off of it. That’s normal and I think it’s important to remember that.

I’m six months into this journey and I will admit I am really struggling right now. I’m finding it harder to meal plan and even more difficult to peel myself off the couch for a workout. Juggling my jobs has made me tired all the time and so it’s hard to find motivation to exhaust myself further when I’d really just like to take a nap. But rather than give up I’ve decided it’s time to relearn some of the lessons that helped me push through the hard parts in the beginning. Those lessons have brought me here to a place where I dropped a pant size and my clothes fit better over all. Sticking with these lessons has allowed me to become stronger and to see changes in my body that I didn’t know were possible. I believe these lessons can help me keep going if I just take the time to remember them. Maybe this will be a good reminder for some of you who are struggling as well, or it could even be a starting place for those who are about to jump in.

While I’ve learned many lessons over the past six months, there are three that really came to mind when writing this post:

Stay hydrated and be mindful of what you eat – I really believe that slacking off on my water intake has played a big part in why I’ve expired in the middle of workouts that I used to blast through. That, combined with the lack of tracking I’ve done with my food has meant my diet has not been as good which could be playing into my sluggishness. I had got to the point where I was doing fine without tracking but then I started to slip up so I think it’s time to go back to writing everything down to help myself stay accountable. Old habits of eating everything and anything can be a lot harder to break than you ever imagine but I find writing things down or tracking things through an app has always made it a bit easier to stay on track.

(This is not an advertisement for VOSS: that’s tap water, I just like the bottle)

One bad day doesn’t have to be a bad week – This is the lesson I definitely forgot this month. I missed a couple of workouts and then I more or less said “what’s the point?”. It was silly of me and I’m definitely paying for it.The same issue came up with eating where one slip up would turn into a week of bad habits. I’ve just got to remember that reaching into that bowl of M&Ms doesn’t mean I’ve failed, I just have to make sure I’m not doing it every single day. While I’m not about to lose all of my progress or anything, I have noticed certain workouts that I was doing regularly before take a bit more effort. I’ve got to train myself back up to the point where I was and then keep pushing. It’s why I’ve made a July calendar that is a little more balanced with light beginner workouts and some more challenging ones: all of which I have tried before.

Work yourself up to the harder challenges – I personally think this is why my June workout calendar failed. Some of the workouts (particularly the Fitness Blender Boot Camp) were too far past my comfort zone. It’s good to challenge yourself, to push past your limits a little bit so you’ll change but you don’t want to jump too far. I’ve said this about walking and of course it applied to workouts too. Choose a difficultly that makes you work but doesn’t make you want to vomit or pass out. I’ve made a new calendar for July that goes a bit easier on me and also lets me workout with Matt (on the days with the hearts) I’m hoping this will allow both of us to work up to some harder workouts again.

(Calendar template from The Girl Creative)

I’ve learned many more lessons over the past six months but these are the three that I’m really focusing on now that we’re into month seven. These are the things that I think will help me push through. We learn a lot in our lives but I think sometimes we forget to go back and review the material. We might have a vague memory of the lesson but if we’re not reminding ourselves of it after some time it may fade away. Take time to think about the things you’ve learned. It doesn’t have to be health or weight loss focused, it could be about anything really. It’s important to remind ourselves of the valuable lessons we’ve been taught, they’re what make our lives better.

If you’re struggling with something, anything at all, don’t beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself and take it slow. Even if you have to take a few steps back before you can move forward that’s okay. You are a work of art, one that no one could ever dream of recreating. Treat yourself well.

 

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Oh The Places You’ll Go…

So technically the first day of summer was only a few days ago but the warm weather rolled in a few weeks ago and because of that we’ve been pretty busy with adventure after adventure. I’ve already shared a few of them in my previous posts but since the sunshine dragged us back out of the house again yesterday I figured I’d give you all another look on yet another adventure day planned in the city.

The plan was to go down to the Junction Farmer’s Market to grab everything we needed for a picnic but as it turns out the market is quite small and lacking picnic type goodies. It was more a fresh vegetable market which would have been good for a grocery shop but wasn’t so great for filling our picnic bag. Luckily, I’m pretty good at improvising and we quickly found a place to grab some brunch.

People seem to have an obsession with brunch but honestly nine times out of ten I find it’s just a breakfast menu that people eat off of a little later. But despite this I do like checking out new little spots and The Mugshot Tavern was something that just popped up on my phone when checking to see what was around the area. Matt had an unusual chicken and waffles eggs benedict which was smothered in gravy and was tasty, while Jess and I had more traditional brunches of a breakfast burrito and plain old chicken and waffles. Nothing was over the top spectacular but it fuelled us up for our walk into High Park.

Now, I’m not much of a nature person. I’d rather walk a few city blocks than roll around in a field of grass. It perhaps has something to do with the plethora of outdoor related allergies I have. Still, High Park quickly became one of my favourite new adventures and that was solely for the off leash dog area. I’m not even sure how many dogs we saw on the walk on the trail but I know I couldn’t take the smile off of my lips the entire time. My friend Jess was only slightly more excited when she got to go to see the baby capybaras at the High Park Zoo.

After the zoo we took a long street car ride up to College Street to go for donuts. Jelly Modern Donuts is an upscale gourmet donut joint that I’ve visited a couple of times now. Like most speciality dessert places it is a bit on the pricier end but it’s not bad if you’re only grabbing one. The donuts are a good size and they’re really tasty. Matt ordered the seasonal fruit, I got the chef’s creation (pralines and cream) and Jess grabbed a Madagascar vanilla which is actually the first donut I myself ever tried from the shop.

Just like the time’s before, the donuts did not disappoint.

Our adventure continued in Kensington Market where we wandered through some shops, paid way too much for freshly squeezed orange juice, and just beat the dinner rush at Seven Lives, my number one taco joint in the city. It was a day filled with new and old adventures, a couple of laughs and a bit of sun.

So that was our adventure this weekend. Sunday morning came early with an 8am volunteering session and now it’s time to wind down before another work week. Hopefully there will be more adventures soon.

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Fitness Friday – Motivation Meltdown


I want to be quite transparent with you all this week: I hit a slump, a really unfortunate one. It started with a few unplanned treats and evolved into skipped workouts, binge eating, and a whole lot of slacking off from this lifestyle I’ve committed myself to. This slow fall began about two weeks ago when I let one night out become a whole bunch of nights stuffing my face.

Now, like many, I’ve been here before. I know very few people who have been on only one weight loss journey and succeeded right off the bat. Lord knows this is probably my fourth or fifth time though it feels more like the fiftieth. Since I have these past experiences I know that this is a make or break moment for me. It is one where I could easily allow myself to fall back into old habits and slowly but surely put the weight back on. That’s exactly what happened last year when I gave up the gym and ate a few too many meals at a theme park.

Of course I do not want to let that happen again but it’s become a little bit harder when I’m no longer feeling motivated. I hate taking that 30-60 minutes out of my day to work out, not to mention the fact that my time showering and doing laundry increases because of it as well. It’s exhausting trying to mentally force myself to say no to certain foods and to walk away from simple things like ice cream trucks. It would be so much easier just to say screw it and eat whenever I want. But of course I have to also think of the things that won’t be easier.

If I give up now it’ll be a hell of a lot harder to walk up the flights of stairs in my building.

If I give up now I won’t be fitting into that Eliza J dress I bought that was already a little snug.

If I give up now my health will continue to suffer and I’ll only increase my chances of getting sick.

If I give up now I’ll be unhappy with myself again, not just with the way I look but because I know I cut myself short.

So with all these reminders I got up today and decided a quick 20 minutes pilates workout with 15 minutes of dancing beforehand should be a good way to ease myself back in. It wasn’t like I was going to suddenly gain back all my motivation or anything but it was definitely a step in the right direction. I turned on an oldies playlist from 8tracks that I love and I just went for it.

I pushed through even though I didn’t really want to. Motivation isn’t always easy, it doesn’t always come naturally and sometimes you really have to fight for it. Sometimes you have to work without it at all. But you can make yourself do these things even when you don’t want to. It’s something I’ve shown myself time and time again when I’ve put on my sports bra and started a workout even when I really just wanted to be lounging on the couch.

If you’re ever hitting a slump just try to remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be forever. You can come back from a few bad days. You can come back from a few bad weeks. Hell, you can come back from a couple of bad years. It’s going to take work and you’re going to have to fight for it but you can do it.

So if you’re debating whether or not you really want to crush that workout today, then this is your call to action. Turn on whatever music motivates you and get to work. You’ve got this!

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Fathers Day and the Gift My Father Gave Me

“There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do.”
– Amy Poehler

Those words of wisdom may have come from the lovely and funny Miss Poehler but this is a lesson I have been learning firsthand for most of my life just by watching my dad. It doesn’t matter how many years go by, he never fails to have a good time, even if that involves making a fool out of himself in front of a bunch of people. In fact, he seems to relish in that. I’ve watched him jump onto the stage at dinner theatre, mix it up with some Disney characters, and be a real hambone with a turkey leg.

Sorry about that, I figured a Father’s Day post was the place for a dad joke or two.

My dad’s I don’t give a fuck attitude is something I have long aspired to grow into. As someone who has struggled with her self image for a long time, being reminded that it doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you’re having fun has been a really important lesson. It’s helped me loosen up a bit and to shed pieces of my Type A personality that have kept me from enjoying myself at times just because other people were watching. Over the years I have become more willing to look silly and to just have fun no matter what but it’s a lesson that often needs repeating and being around my dad helps with that.

I think it’s kind of great the way that parents inadvertently teach us things just through their behaviour. To shamelessly be yourself is a lesson that I think most people need to learn at some point in their lives. It is easier for some than it is for others and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong or abnormal about struggling with yourself at times, as long as you positively work through that. Some days you just need to straighten your shoulders and reminder yourself that you’re amazing no matter where you’re at at that moment or what other people think.

Basically, learn to love yourself as much as Gaston and my dad love themselves.

Despite the fact that I was a theatre kid, I still used to shy away from being pulled up on stage or singled out by performers in any way. I used to dread the moments that actors would come into the audience and find kids to interact with because I was afraid of how I looked to everyone watching.From watching my dad I’ve learnt that looking silly should be the least of my worries. While those anxieties still bubble up from time to time, I feel I’m much more relaxed about those kind of things now. Secondhand embarrassment is still a thing but mostly I’ve learned to laugh it all off or join in the fun.

So try to not worry too much about what other people will say or think, don’t worry about how something makes you look if you enjoy doing it. Feel free to post silly pictures and to show those not so serious moments off to the people around you. Maybe the pictures aren’t the most traditionally flattering but they show you having fun and they’ll help preserve that memory for hard days to come. Please, just don’t take yourself too seriously.

I hope you all have someone in your life who isn’t afraid to just let go and let loose. I hope you’re able to laugh along with them and get a little silly yourself. As for me, well I’m thankful that I have a goofy, fun, ridiculous dad to look up to and to imitate. My life would not be quite as humorous without him.

Finally, to all the dads in your lives, from the ones who have been around from the beginning, to the ones who have stepped in partway through, and the ones we wish were still here: Happy Father’s Day.

 

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Fitness Friday – Just Keep Swimming

Gosh, I feel like I’ve been planning on writing this post forever and yet other topics just kept getting in the way. Our pool has been opened since March and while I’ve mentioned it a few times I’ve never really had the chance to talk about how great it has been for my body. I know not everyone is lucky enough to have regular access to a pool (or even a lake / big body of water) but for those of you who do I thought I’d share some of my lessons and tips on making the most out of your swim time without having to swim laps. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with laps, in fact I believe they’re quite good for you and they’re a great source of cardio, but sometimes you just don’t want to swim back and forth, back and forth. So what do you do?

Water Aerobics

If you’ve never been to a water aerobics class as your local rec centre or something like that I strongly suggest checking them out. I know there’s this stereotype that it’s something only for older individuals but once you get out of that mindset you’re bound to have a lot of fun and to actually get in a really good workout.

While I haven’t been to any classes recently I have stolen a bunch of water aerobics moves for when I feel like bouncing around the pool. Some are a bit harder without a shallow end but for the most part it’s doable. These exercises are great for toning your muscles without putting too much pressure on your joints.

You can find lots of different articles with Water Aerobic moves online but by far my favourite is the “Wave Maker”, here’s what you do:

  • Position yourself facing one wall of the pool with your hands gripping the edge.
  • Bring your torso and legs up to a nearly level position just below the surface of the water.
  • Pin your knees and feet together and then kick out like a dolphin, trying to keep legs and feet under water the entire time.
  • Do this for 30 seconds or for as long as possible.

Pilates / Barre Inspired Moves

I’m sure this has been done before but for me it’s just something I came up with without any prompting. I have a love-hate relationship with the repetitive lifts and pulses of pilates moves because they’re a simple form of toning but they can hurt so much. Taking some of my pilates leg moves to the pool has allowed me to work with a different type of resistance that doesn’t make my muscles scream quite as much.

My method of taking pilates to the pool has revolved solely around working my leg muscles. I do front, side, and back leg lifts to the count of fifteen with an additional ten count of small pulses. All you’ll do is position yourself against a wall for balance and purposefully bring your leg up and down in the water (one side at a time) with your toe pointed while moving up and flexed while going down. After the fifteen count I pulse at the top of the motion for ten before repeating on the other leg.

It’s relatively simple but it does help work those leg muscles without so much pressure on balance or on your joints. It’s also a great way to really burn out your muscles if you’ve just finished a harder out of water routine. Just be careful getting out of the pool, sometimes you don’t realize how worn out you are until after you’re back on dry land.

Walking Around

By now I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you think I have an obsession with walking and perhaps you’re right. It’s one of the easier forms of exercise and it can still be incredibly beneficial. I think it’s extra awesome to take your steps to a pool when you have the unique situation of nearly feeling weightless while also working against resistance. If I’m alone in the pool I will legitimately just walk around, counting my steps in my head until I hit a number I’m satisfied with. It certainly helps that our pool is all the same height and that no part of it goes over my head so I’m not suddenly trying to walk under water.

In addition to getting new methods of exercise in, the pool has been a surprising great place for another area of growth in my life and that has to do with  my body image and self confidence. Perhaps this seems a little backwards because a bathing suit isn’t exactly a safe place to some people. To be honest, it was never one to me either. Putting my bathing suit on the first few times to go swimming in the new pool had me feeling anxious about walking through my apartment building for all to see. Even when there was just one other person in the pool area I felt myself shrink up a little bit at first.

But with time that has changed.

I’m now comfortable jumping into my swim suit and heading to the pool. I don’t hesitate to walk around the pool deck even though I know the folks on the treadmills in our gym have a straight shot of me. I don’t worry as much when the pool is crowded in the evening and I’m the only one there without a typical beach body.

And that’s because I’m continuing to understand that every body is a beach body.

If you want to wear a bikini, wear it, and equally as important if you don’t want to wear one, don’t.

For so long I focused my goals on finally being able to fit into a bikini because aside from my very young childhood days I have never wore one. In high school my bathing suits typically consisted of a pair of board shorts and a tankini top. Back then, I wasted too much time dreaming about the day I could wear a bikini when I probably should have just put one on. My self worth got wrapped up in whether or not my stomach was flat enough to look good with so little coverage and to be quite blunt it was incredibly damaging.

So I’ve switched my mindset and I’m no longer making one of my goals to be bikini focused because the fact is that it’s about so much more than a flat tummy or what size you’re wearing. There are individuals of all shapes and sizes who are comfortable wearing that style of bathing suit, just like there are individuals of all shapes and sizes who are not comfortable. It’s a body image and comfort level issue, not a weight issue. Right now I’m still learning to love my body where it’s at in addition to where it is going so I’m going to stick with my one piece suit, which suits me just fine.

So those are my thoughts on our no longer new pool. I know I’m spoiled rotten to have one right in my building but public pools and beaches can be just as useful. Try not to worry too much about how you look in a bathing suit (you look gorgeous by the way) or what people may think. Love yourself, love your body, and don’t let anyone stop you from having fun.

 

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Oh Darling, Lets Be Adventurers

It’s time for an adventure share my lovely readers.

This weekend’s adventures started off with a trip downtown that turned into a celebratory dinner and movie with my best friend Keeragh. She’s kicking so much ass lately and with plans to already hit up Wonder Woman Friday night it only made sense to tack dinner on beforehand to really celebrate. I had hoped to score a reservation at Teronni now that I know a little bit about its haunted past from my training at Haunted Walks Toronto but unfortunately that six o’clock time slot we were looking for was all booked up. That’s okay though because it led to us finding a different joint that I quickly fell in love with.

BATCH, named because of the brewhouse history of brewing in small batches using a simple copper kettle up in Creemore, is a little gastro-pub downtown Toronto just a short walk from Queen Subway Station. The overhang sign with vanity lights positioned underneath almost makes it look like another theatre hidden amongst the downtown core but instead the old historical building has been turned into quite the place for craft beer and good eats.

There’s a muted retro tone inside the restaurant that comes in teals, burgundy, and soft brown and black leather. At the front you’ll find fully stocked fridges with bottles and cases to bring home while the long bar just inside hosts fresh pours of the many beers on tap. By the end of diner our crew had sampled all six of BATCH’s current selection from a Whitbier with 17IBU to a Indian Pale Ale with 70IBU. I’m not a beer drinker myself but I still like to take a sip here and there because I have been known to surprise myself. The citrus flavours from the Whitbier were what got me onboard, though I still couldn’t finish the small glass. The other two enjoyed themselves though.

So the menu at BATCH is pretty straight forward. You’ve got a handful of starters, a selection of seasonal flatbreads, salads, and your main entrees. But here’s the thing, despite the fact that the menu was simple we still all struggled with narrowing down what we were going to order. There were too many unique options for me to just know off the bat. It didn’t help that I had checked out some of the pictures of the food online and that only made things harder. As we hemmed and hawed Matt suggested ordering one of the flatbreads as a starter (since we were all looking at them) and so we went with that.

We ended up with the Niagara Salami flatbread which had a tomato sauce base with fior di latte cheese and both prosciutto and soppressata. The meats had a good heat to them and even though they kept sliding off my slices (the others oddly enough didn’t have any issues) the flatbread was awesome. It would have made a fine dinner on its own but once our actual entrees arrived I was happy to have just split this one.

So what did I have for dinner that made me so happy? It’s something really simple actually: perogies. Now, generally when I think of perogies I think of it as a side dish or an appetizer. I’ve had some good perogies over the years but generally the little scrumptious pockets of goodness are accompanied by more than just bacon and onions. However, in BATCH’s case, it was all I needed. Maybe it was the two slices of flatbread beforehand that helped or the fact that I just don’t eat that many heavy carbs anymore but I was struggling by the end of this dish to finish it all. But I just had to. The sauce that accompanied the sour cream, whatever it was, was absolutely heavenly and the perogies were cooked to perfection. It was a tough choice between them, schnitzel, and fried chicken but ultimately I’m happy with my choice.

Judging by the reactions at the table, Keeragh and Matt were pretty damn satisfied with their meals as well. The portions aren’t huge by any means but they don’t leave you hungry or too bloated. Well, they wouldn’t have had we stopped after dinner but lets not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

Matt ended up ordering the reuben which came on a beautiful pretzel bun with cabbage slaw and Russian dressing. Both his meal and Keeragh’s lamb burger came with the largest fries I’ve ever seen in my life. They were probably about two fingers wide and they came out piping hot. They were lightly salted and once they weren’t burning your mouth they were pretty tasty.

Then of course, celebrating and all, I just couldn’t seem to keep to my goal to keep away from the sweets for a bit. I was good though and opted for sharing one piece of coconut cream pie with the table instead of having my own dessert. I don’t regret it for a second. It went down so smooth and while I probably could’ve finished off a piece for myself, my tight jeans were pretty happy that I didn’t. Our waiter, who was all sorts of fun, had told us the sticky toffee pudding was great as well but after reading so much about the cream pie online I just had to try it. I guess I’ll just have to go back again to try it later.

BATCH, like almost all the restaurants right downtown was a bit pricey but nothing too much past your run of the mill chain restaurant these days. Plates averaged $18-20 dollars and they were well worth it. I never mind paying for good food.

With our bellies full it was time to make the trek up to the Yonge and Dundas Cineplex to take in Wonder Woman in 4D. It was Matt and I’s second time to the 4D theatre but Keeragh’s first. For those of you who aren’t familiar with 4D it’s an enhanced version of 3D where more effects (fog, rain, movement, wind, snow, etc.) are added in. You’re in a row of 4 seats each that move as a unit. We saw Rogue One like this back in December and it was a lot of fun so we despite the steep price ($25 a ticket) we decided to take another go.

This time it wasn’t the 4D that amazed me.

I could probably (and may still) write a full post about how happy I am with Wonder Woman. Even with all the hype it still blew me away. There were two moments where I found myself crying but most of the movie I was just smiling so much that my cheeks began to hurt. The No Man’s Land scene is probably the most important scene in Super Hero flick history in my opinion and I just can’t wait to see how this movie empowers those who go to see it, especially those who identify as women. If you haven’t seen it yet I strongly suggest going to check it out, it has elements of humour, history, action, and a whole lot of heart so I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy it.

Of course the adventure didn’t end on Friday night. Saturday morning we got up, wished Keeragh off to work (sorry babe) and headed down to The Stop Farmer’s Market at the Wychwood Barns down by St. Clair West. After a bit of driving around an area that is brand new to us we snagged a parking spot and then made our way down to the old streetcar barn that acts as the centre piece for the market.

The market runs year round with the vendors shifting inside the old barn in the winter. There were probably about 30-40 tents outside with everything from Jamaican patties to fresh produce. There were a lot of yummy looking pies and tarts that I would have liked to take home but after Friday’s indulgences I decided to show a little self control.

After the big grocery shop we did last week it made the most sense to just stock up on some fruits and veg instead of doing another full trip. I love doing so at farmers markets because you get to support your fellow locals while also having the chance of stumbling upon some unique items. It might be a bit pricier than a grocery store for some things but I don’t mind when the products are high quality. Plus, farmer’s markets often make for fun little adventures, especially when you go to one you’ve never been before. The Stop Farmer’s Market is definitely unique given its location and it also had some really great vendors.

So $30 later and we had a small bag of goods to help us make it through the week. Seeing mustard beans is always a moment of excitement for me. They’re probably easy to make but for me it’s just a nice treat that reminds me of home. In the end we grabbed asparagus, carrots and turnips for this weeks dinners, a quiche (which was so scrumptious) for Saturday’s lunch, the mustard beans of course, and some honey garlic pepperoni sticks. We’d been hoping to find some fruit but only two stalls had some and it was all apples and strawberries so we decided to just pick up a few items from the store after all. Despite this it was a good little trip.

Honestly if there’s a farmer’s market in your area and you’ve never been I suggest going, you never know what kind of goodies you might find.

 

The weekend wasn’t over yet and so the adventures continued today (hence the late and long post). We headed back out into the sunshine (in shorts because I learnt my lesson after boiling on Friday in my jeans) and went down to the Annex Family Festival.

I misread the website so we showed up an hour before the street party really got started but that was fine because it allowed for wandering around when things weren’t busy. We walked further down Bloor in either direction just checking out shop windows and everything that was going on.

We enjoyed some fried plantain and Hawaiian skewers while we wandered around and even got a cute little polaroid taken of the two of us. There were lots of little items to buy and stalls to check out but we mostly just went for a stroll. Once we’d passed through the walk a few times we decided to go grab a bite to eat. Knowing that Snakes and Lattes was right down the street we headed there to play some board games and munch on chips and dip.

Three hours later we were back on the street with little to no plan.

But wandering about kind of aimlessly can lead to amazing things and today it happened to lead us right onto the set of Stephen and Robbie Amell’s new film, Code 8. I’m a huge Arrow fan (I feel like this had been alluded to before) and while there was no sight of Mr. Oliver Queen himself it was still exciting to run into the set itself. Maybe I’ll be able to find Stephen before he heads back to Vancouver to film Arrow.

Despite no Amell sitings we did get a little treat as we watched Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift star Sung Kang, who was just recently announced as a cast member, jump out of one of the vehicles. He seemed to be the star of the scene which was filming right in front of Hotel Waverly on Spadina Avenue. You can see the back of his head in the second picture below, of course the other car was in the way of him whenever he seemed to turn around.

Finally, with no ripped super heroes in sight we headed down Spadina and checked out a little fast food joint known as The Chickery. As you may be able to guess their special is chicken and much like KFC, Nandos, Popeyes, or whatever fried chicken place you’re into, their chicken comes in different cuts and sizes with different sides and sauces.

I ordered the chicken feathers with a side of corn bread and garlic aioli while Matt had an order of chicken fingers with street corn and sweet chili sauce. Everything was delicious, definitely not healthy but after hitting 16,000 steps before dinner and only snacking throughout the day it was definitely a cheat I don’t feel guilty about. That seems to be a theme of this weekend I suppose.

It’s back to work tomorrow but I’m fully charged up from our weekend of fun. I’ve found a lot of love and self-care in these new adventures, breaking out of my comfort zone in the city and getting to see places that I should have checked out years ago. Exploration is good for the soul, even if it’s in the place you call home. So get going, adventure is out there.

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Fitness Friday – Blogilates Beginners Calendar Review

If you’ve been keeping up with some of my posts lately you may remember that in May I decided to tackle the Blogilates Beginner’s Calendar which can be found here in full at blogilates.com. Cassey Ho and her Pop Pilates videos are something that my friend Keeragh turned me onto years ago but I never really had the drive or strength to complete them. I’m happy to say that that has changed.

As of Wednesday I finished up the 28 days of the Beginner’s Calendar and as planned I rewarded myself with one of the Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks that Emily Bett Rickards wore on Arrow this season. I’m feeling pretty great about finishing the whole calendar. While I didn’t make any of the rest day recipes I did complete all the videos in the challenge. One day I even doubled up because I’d missed a day and I didn’t want to cheat myself. Let me tell you, that was a lot of pilates. But I made it and because I did I wanted to share my review of the calendar by outlining what I think are its major strengths and weaknesses. So here we go!

Strengths

Set up – the fact that all your videos are set out for the day really makes it easier to jump right into a workout. There’s no chance of avoiding doing so just by searching for the ‘right’ video, you already have a set of videos that you have to complete so you may as well jump right in. This pro is actually what led to me making my own calendar for the month so I would have the same convenience with other workout programs.

Apartment Friendly – and house friendly of course. I was able to do all these videos in the small area in front of my front closet (a 7×7 space at most) and all I needed was a yoga mat. There was one day that involved stretches with a resistance band but I just went without. Overall this one is incredibly accessible and with the videos hosted online you could take them basically anywhere.

The coach – although I spent much of my time cursing and yelling at the beautiful and upbeat woman on the screen, the fact is that Cassey is a pretty great coach. Her upbeat energy can be annoying when you feel like you’re dying but she’s there to push you and to encourage you to keep going. She seems to know when people are ready to give up because her prompts to keep going almost always happen right when you need them. Some of her videos also have some great messages about loving your body and just doing whatever you can do to get stronger. I really enjoyed getting to know her a bit through these videos, even if I called her a few not-so-nice names.

The variety – if you’re someone who gets bored easily by repetitive workouts then the set up of the calendar will please you because there really is a mix of videos. A couple of the videos show up multiple times but not too often that you’ll  be annoyed by them. For the most part, almost every day has a new video in it with new challenges in-store.

Cardio and Strength – most people have a solid understanding that you’re not going to get a flat tummy just by doing a million crunches. You have to target the abs in different ways and you need to shed the fat on top of those muscles which you’re only going to do if you get that heartbeat up and suffer through some cardio. Cassey obviously knows this because while you’re not doing cardio every day it does pop up often. In addition to this many of her pilates videos move at a fast enough pace that you may just find your heart racing anyway.

Weaknesses

Is it actually a Beginners calendar? – reading into the comments before some of the videos you’ll find that I wasn’t the only one wondering this. A lot of people struggled making it through that first week. While some videos were good about giving modifications others were not and it could get frustrating when you just couldn’t handle the move. The moves can be difficult and it’s easy to mess up form or to expire quickly. It’s more of an intermediate level in my opinion.

No warm up / cool down included – it’s funny because this isn’t the case for all of the days, and there’s even a day where Cassey talks about how important warm-ups are but it’s not until late in the first week or early in the second. Either way there are certainly a good number of days that don’t have these included so you need to prompt yourself to find other videos / do them yourself. Forgetting to do so (as I did some days) can risk injury and make your body expire a lot quicker which is a problem.

Hard on the neck and back – pilates stance and I are not friends. Over the course of the calendar my form and my strength got better but I still found it quite painful to have my shoulders lifted so often. But it was the strain on the lower back in a lot of these videos that really got to me. I have a history of back pain so it’s definitely one of my weak spots. I found that overall there were not enough exercises working the lower back to compensate for the strain that some of the core moves put on it. Many times I would switch out a painful core move for swimmers or some other sort of back exercise just to find a better balance.

Overly core focused – while this wasn’t the worst thing for me, who’s lacking in core strength, it was something to note. Most of Cassey’s videos really target the core and are about slimming down that mid section. There’s a good selection of videos that target the legs but I found that upper body was often forgotten. I know sometimes as women we have a fear of bulking up on our arms and so we’re more likely to skip arm day than leg day but I really wish there had been more for arms and chest. Just doing half cobra to work the triceps seemed a little lacklustre.

Results

While I’ve decided to keep my progress pictures private, I will tell you that I did see some little differences after a month of using the calendar. Most of all I saw changes in my tummy. The little pouch I have that hangs over my belly button appears slightly lifted giving me the image of a flatter stomach in comparison to before. I also felt that my legs had toned up a bit more to the point where I randomly noticed when passing a mirror the other day. While I wouldn’t consider any of these changes major, I have found that month to month overall my changes are small but they’re making a bigger difference in the long run. Additionally, I can definitely tell I’ve increased my core strength, and that going through the calendar made me more cognitively aware of keeping my belly button pulled in and my core tight during other workouts as well. These might not be huge changes to some but any progress is good.

And of course, I’m quite happy with my more tangible reward.

In a lot of the videos Cassey really pushes you to keep going, to not drop your legs or your torso and to push further. Sometimes this is going to be what you need to make it through a few more reps or to hold on a little longer but I also think it’s important to remember that it is okay to stop and take breaks. There was not a single video in this calendar where I made it through the whole workout with a break here and there. I think the key here is to do what you can and modify when you need to.

Overall, I think a lot of these videos are good for people like myself who are just starting into pilates but I’m not sure I would classify it as an overall beginner program. I definitely think I would have quit the calendar within the first week if I had tried this a few months ago when I wasn’t active at all. The compact and repetitive movements are a lot more straining than you expect so it’s easy to underestimate how much pilates is going to hurt, especially if you’re lacking in core strength like I am. If you’re just breaking into fitness for the first time I suggest trying different programs first (like Fitness Blender’s level 2 videos or a handful of Fitness Marshall’s dance videos) before you jump into this one.  But if you’re ready for a challenge and need a starting point then I think this is a pretty good one. If you do give Cassey’s calendar a try at some point don’t be too hard on yourself: focus on form instead of repetitions. It’ll help your core strengthen and eventually you’ll be able to do more and more.

Have any of you tried pop pilates before? Are there any other instructors you’ve really enjoyed and videos that you think I would like to try? I always appreciate getting resources from others just so I can try something new that other people have liked in the past. Drop your links in to the comments below!

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Tasty Tuesday – Meal Prep Madness

Sunday was a crazy day for us, between the grocery store and Costco we were shopping for two and a half hours, and then we came home and cooked even longer than that. I know I’ve read stories from a lot of people who say eating healthy and meal planning is quick and easy but it really isn’t in our household. Sundays are usually reserved as a day to do grocery shopping and meal prepping, and the whole process usually starts at 9 or 10am and doesn’t end until after lunch. It’s still worth it but some days it’s incredibly draining and I think it’s valuable to be honest about that. It’s hard work but it pays out in the end.

Still, this past Sunday I made a huge mistake of taking on the task of trying to make four new recipes all in one day. Somehow everything turned out alright but it wasn’t without stressing and a few moments of panic where I really didn’t know what I was doing. Next time I will go with one new recipe and a bunch of others that I’m used to making. Maybe then it will not take the whole day to get our meals in the fridge.

While I’d normally share one recipe at a time with you, especially since I modified some of these, I decided that this Tasty Tuesday would be more of a show and tell of this week’s meals. I’ll be linking he recipes in case anything peaks your interest but I won’t be going to any of them in great depth.

I should start off by saying that I did not follow any of these recipes by the book. Instead, I used them to make my ingredient list and to get a basic idea as to what I was cooking. I modified to make things healthier (i.e. removing the heavy cream from the pork chop recipe and not breading my orange chicken) and other things were skipped solely because I was lazy. In the end everything turned out okay and I think that is an important thing to remember with meal preps: don’t be afraid to experiment.

Now, onto the meals

Chicken & Vegetable Stir Fry (above, left) – Sunday’s lunch was a delicious stir fry recipe I picked up from one of the lovely ladies I follow, you can check out her blog here. Sahar always makes my day with her kind comments and I was able to pick up this easy and delicious recipe from her. It’s simple because the stir fry uses minimal ingredients which include mostly frozen veggies and pre-cooked chicken. This is definitely a lighter meal since it’s not made with any of those sugar packed teriyaki sauces (which I love) it’s just a bit of soy sauce, lemon juice and honey. Couldn’t get much simpler than that! It was easily adjustable to Matt’s need for more calories by just placing it over a bed of rice while I had mine as is.

Three Ingredient Orange Chicken – I will be honest with you, I did not read the full recipe for this one before going to the store which is why I sort of blanked out on the fact that there would even be breading. In the end it worked out better because skipping the flour, eggs, and oil made this dish a bit healthier. The sauce is a simple combination of orange marmalade, bbq sauce, and soy sauce. I found it to be a bit heavy on the bbq taste (could be the brand I used) but overall it was pretty tasty. I threw in a bunch of asparagus, peppers and broccoli to get my veggie portion in there and then a small bed of rice noodles served as my carbs. Voila, another meal done.

5 Ingredient Coconut Chicken – this was the recipe I was the more disappointed in but I think it had something to do with the fact that I didn’t clean enough of the coconut milk off of the chicken when I took it out of the bag so they didn’t have the chance to crisp up in the oven. The marinade itself helped keep the chicken nice and tender but I would have liked some of the crispy golden bits that you see in the picture of the recipe. Perhaps someone else will have better luck giving this a try. Still, over another bed of rice noodles and veggies with a bit of Sriracha as a sauce, this was still a decent meal and prep was pretty easy.

5 Ingredient Cider Dijon Porkchops – I haven’t had pork chops in months because I find most of the time they just dry out in meal preps but the thick cut pork chops from Costco combined with the zinger of a cider sauce in this recipe turned out great. As I mentioned I swapped out the heavy cream and used milk instead so my sauce became more of a base to just fry the chops in than it was a glaze. They still turned out great and the milk and cider sauce helped keep them tender. These went with roasted asparagus, carrots and potatoes to make another filling meal. This is definitely the recipe I’d be the most likely to do again, especially because those Costco pork chops yielded lots of servings and they’re now tucked away in my freezer ready for next week.

So there we have it, four new meals that yielded six servings for each of us (they weren’t all done at the time hence why the picture only has four servings each). It was an exhausting trial but now we only have to worry about making dinners for the week which is really something because it’s a busy one.

On that note, it is bittersweet for me to say but this marks the end of Tasty Tuesday for a while. With my jobs and volunteering commitments I’m finding that it’s hard to really pull out new recipes and to take pictures of food worthy of sharing. I’ve come to realize that I need to take this off my plate (food pun intended) for the time being. My Fitness Friday posts and my regular Sunday check ins will continue as normal, I just figured it’s better to take a step back and lessen my workload in order to give you guys quality content rather than posts that are forced. But I promise, I’m not going anywhere.

 

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Your Job Does Not Define You

Once upon a time ago, I stumbled across a text post on Tumblr that I really wish I had saved. Actually, more than that I wish I had took a screen shot and then blown it up poster size so I would see it every single day. I don’t remember the exact wording but the idea was that we need to stop teaching young people that their success in life is determined primarily by their career. Furthermore, we need to stop teaching them that something is wrong if they don’t love their job.

The post then went on to suggest that we ought to be emphasizing that while some people find worth and meaning in their jobs, for other people their job is just a way to pay the bills and to hopefully have enough left over for the other things that matter, whether that’s spending time with family and friends, jetting off on exciting vacations, or just buying a video game or a book they were looking forward to. The post suggests that meaning in your life and fulfillment can come from places other than work. You don’t have to love your job, you can simply see it as a means to an end that helps support the other aspects of your life that you do love.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this post lately because I’m kind of in a weird position with my work. My new job is slow starting and while I’m sure it will pick up I know there will be days where the repetitive office work just won’t feel very fulfilling. On the other hand, my job giving tours will allow me to get back to my theatre routes and do something I love but unfortunately with shifts being 1-3 hours at a time, I just can’t support myself on that.

Even with this contrast, these two positions still share a common thread: they’re not what I went to school for.

That’s what I think is so important about this post right now. So many people my age were told that if they work hard and go through college or university that they’d get a job right out of the gate in a field they loved. It’s simply not true for most people. While I do have friends who have been fortunate enough to launch their careers into the fields they studied, I have many more who are compromising, and much of them do not love the work they do. It’s not for lack of trying either. I wrote my heart into cover letters for jobs at shelters, mental health centres and other places that I felt reflected my educational background but for all of the paid positions I never even got an interview. There was simply too much competition and while I had the educational expertise, I did not have enough actual experience. So I turned back to what I did have experience in: hospitality.

First of all, let me just say that there is nothing wrong with the work I was doing. In fact, I enjoyed much of it and I think it really helped me grow as a professional but I knew it was missing some vital parts for me. I wanted my work to really help people in need, and while I could give directions to just about anything at Canada’s Wonderland from any part of the park, I didn’t feel like I was making a difference. I felt like I had failed.

The position had left me wondering what the point of post-secondary was. I’m sure lots of others have had these thoughts as well. And being in a job that seems disconnected from your studies can make you feel like a failure for not breaking into your own field. You worry about getting stuck in some position that you don’t love and that the rest of your life will mean nothing because of it.

This couldn’t be further from the case.

Some of the best people I know have been stuck in jobs they don’t love for decades now. Sure, some have opportunities to go out an get retrained and start over again but more often than not people stick with what they know. And there is nothing wrong with that. While it would be fantastic for everyone to love the job they’re in, it’s just not likely. Some people will get to love what they do, and if you’re one of those people I commend you. But if you’re not? I’m still rooting for you and I’m here to remind you that your work does not define your life. It doesn’t matter that you spend 40 hours there every week, there’s still many more hours to define yourself elsewhere.

You see, the thing the world has neglected to tell us is that there is so much more to being successful than work. Yes, you spend so much time learning and training for your eventual place as a cog in the machine but that does not mean what you do defines your life. We may be obsessed with asking people we’ve just met where they work and what they do but we also ask them a load of other important questions.

Are you married? Do you have any kids? Did you see the new Wonder Woman movie yet? Where are you going on vacation? What are you doing this weekend? Any plans for tonight? How was that concert you went to? Where’s that dress from?

Just to name a few.

You’ll notice these questions have nothing to do with work and yet they dig at things that make everyone’s lives more interesting. They are the bits and pieces that make us unique, even without our job title tacked on to us.

I’ve struggled with tying self-worth to my work for many, many years. I was a straight A student and a bit of a perfectionist when it came to anything I was working on. This kind of thing made me believe that success was tied to number grades or evaluations from my supervisors. It’s taken me a long time to accept that my job is not the be all to end all in my life. Even if I do end up in a position I don’t love for a while, I can push through knowing there is so much more in the world out there for me. I can still make a difference, I just have to do it in other ways.

Learning this lesson has really come from watching my mother. My mom has been a waitress for 20+ years, it’s hard work and she’s damn good at it but I’m positive that running around serving other people dinner isn’t the thing that makes her who she is. Instead, she’s found love and fulfillment as a mother, as an avid movie goer, and as someone who can claim they’ve been to Disney World fifteen times. Sounds like a pretty damn good life, even with years of working on her feet and dealing with difficult customers. I consider her one of the most successful people I know.

So if you’re feeling down about the work you’re doing maybe take some time to reflect on the other aspects of your life. For me, volunteering has become a connection to the work world that I thought I was going to be in. My hope is to one day move forward into a paid position but for now using my free time to help people suits me just fine without the pay check attached, that’s what my other jobs are for. Vacations and city adventures with friends and family are the things that define me more than work. I pride myself in being able to share my city with others and it’s something I truly love doing. For the most part, I don’t get paid for it, and more often than not I spend more money than intended, but it still enriches my life. You just have to pick out the thing in yours that does that for you.

It may be being a parent or a partner, it could be taking trips with the money you’ve saved after working your ass off, it could be pub nights with your coworkers, or a beautiful garden you’ve planted yourself. It could be your compassion for those in need, the way you help people in your life get through their own struggles, or it could be your the way your sense of humour lights up a room. It could actually be your job. Whatever it is, it is yours and no one should be able to take that value away from you, even if they don’t approve of the work you’re doing.

You are more than what you get paid to do.

Whether you love your job or you’re counting down the hours until your shift ends, remember that you are worth so much more than the number on your pay check and that you can go out and put your mark on this world even if it’s not through paid employment. Everyone’s path is different, don’t be afraid of your own.

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Fitness Friday – June Workout Plan

Two Fitness Fridays in one day? I must have the day off or something.

Anyway, as promised in my first post today, I want to share the details of my workout calendar with all of you just in case you’re interested in giving it a try or even just giving some of it a try. I shared the calendar in my other post but for the sake of simplicity here it is again:

I had to use short forms to make the workouts fit into the calendar and while I know what I’m referring o each day, I figured it would be easier to just provide some links. Not only is this handy for any of you looking to join me but it also gives me a one stop shop to pull up the videos I will be doing every day.

FYI: PP = Pop Pilates, FB = Fitness Blender, and FM = Fitness Marshall.

PP Day # – these videos come from Casey Ho, the creator of Blogilates and they can be found here in her beginners calendar.

FB Kickbox HIIT – the kickboxing routine that I’ve gone through many, many times now just had to make its way into this month because I’ve really missed it. It’s a good form of cardio with some killer arms thrown in at the end: check it out here.

FM Warm Up – Pick any three videos from the Fitness Marshall channel and use them to warm up. You can find his videos on his channel here.

FB Pilates – a newer FB video that I haven’t tried yet but my success with the Pop Pilates calendar made me want to check out some more pilates workouts so this one here is going to be an experiment.

FB Flexibility 1, 2, and 3 – making the most of my rest days I decided that while one rest day would be completely workout free, a 20-30 minute break in the other to work on flexibility wouldn’t hurt. So it’s back to that Fitness Blender Flexibility challenge again. Here are the links for day one, day two, and day three.

FM Sweat Set – these change every once in a while but it’s a preset playlist of Fitness Marshall videos that will last between 40 minutes to an hour and you can find them here.

FB Bootcamp – This is another Fitness Blender workout that I have yet to try. I really like lower body workouts but I like them even more when they mix cardio in, this workout here does just that.

Batgirls – I’ve mentioned this one before and I think it’s time to finally build my stamina back up to doing ten of them. I’m going to see if I can make it there this month.

PP Killer Legs – This is one of the videos I really enjoyed from the Pop Pilates beginners calendar and so I decided throwing it in to challenge myself to a burnout round after some harder routines. You can find the video here.

PP Sexy Arms – Before this video I didn’t realize my arms could ache after six minutes. This video is another quick one from the beginners calendar that I’ve tacked on to some days for a challenge.

Weight Lifting – this one is a build your own with whatever weights you want. I do the following circuit 5 times with minimal breaks between each round. On the last round I like to bump the reps up to 15 just to tire the arms out.

  • 12 lateral raises
  • 12 ventral raises
  • 12 rotating bicep / hammer curls
  • 12 tricep extensions

So there it is, all the links you (and I) will need to get through June. Lets do this.

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