Ninjas and Dreams

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It wouldn’t be Monday without a motivational post! About a week ago, I saw a video (see above) featuring former NCAA gymnast Kacy Catanzaro aka “The Mighty Kacy” competing on the NBC/Esquire Network show, “American Ninja Warrior”.

“American Ninja Warrior”, features contestants battling a gruelling obstacle course that takes a tremendous amount of strength, speed, athleticism and sheer hunger to defeat. In fact, this course is so brutal that most men and no women have been capable of completing it. Cue the 5-foot-nothing, 100-pounder, Kacy Catanzaro. Kacy, the first woman to ever conquer the course made it look like a walk in the park! Her energy, agility, power and determination is truly motivating. Even more, her dedication to pursuing her dream of dominating this daunting course is very inspiring. She trained 4-6 days a week on weights and circuits and then practised obstacle courses in the evening. Although I’ve seen this video a few times now, it never fails to get my adrenaline flowing, spark my inner athlete and remind me that anything is possible with hard work and tenacity. By sharing this video with you, I hope that it inspires and motivates you to go after your dreams this and not stop until they are your reality! In the words of the great, Henry David Thoreau, “Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

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Abs in 5 days!

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This is me at the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival wearing the stunning piece for the Toronto Revellers’ Wrath!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! My weekend was quite fun –  on Friday night I attended the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Gala at the Liberty Grand in Toronto. The night was filled with fabulous entertainment, a delicious 3-course meal and I had the opportunity to try on a stunning headpiece created for the Toronto Revellers’ Wrath of the Barbarian, while I danced the night away. On Sunday, I picked up the costume that I will be wearing in the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Parade on Saturday, from Saldenah’s Amazonia. Although I’ve worn costumes for similar parades in Trinidad and Barbados, I’ve never worn a costume in Toronto’s parade, so I was overwhelmed with excitement as I received my gorgeous costume. However, when I got home and tried it on, I had the horrible realization that I have been slacking on my ab workouts!

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The costume I need abs for – made by Saldenah’s Amazonia!

Abs are made in the kitchen, so I’m going to try to eat healthier for the rest of the week but I also plan to incorporate additional ab exercises into my regular workouts. After doing some research on the interwebs, I found the plan below:

Monday

  1. 20 Reverse Crunches
  2. 30 Russian Twists
  3. 40 Second Side Plank
  4. 30 Mountain Climbers
  5. 20 Scissors

Tuesday

  1. 20 V-Ups
  2. 30 Mountain Climbers
  3. 40 Side Jackknives
  4. 30 Burpees
  5. 20 Second Side Plank

Wednesday

  1. 20 Second Plank
  2. 30 Scissors
  3. 40 Reverse Crunches
  4. 30 Sit Ups
  5. 20 Bicycle Crunches

Thursday

  1. 20 Bicycle Crunches
  2. 30 Side Jackknives
  3. 40 Burpees
  4. 30 Second Side Plank
  5. 20 Scissors

Friday

  1. 20 V-Ups
  2. 30 Russian Twists
  3. 40 Reverse Crunches
  4. 30 Sit Ups
  5. 20 Side Jackknives

If you are going to be in the Caribbean Carnival Parade in Toronto, give it a try. If you don’t, I’ll let you know how this plan works out for me!

Tips to Rise and Grind

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A few days ago, I wrote a post entitled, Rise and Grind, which outlined the benefits of morning workouts. We all know why we should rise and grind and but the problem lies in actually waking up at dreadful hour! So, I want to share a great blog post that I came across, by Aemillia Madden (from http://www.fitsugar.com/), who supplies us with a few tips and tricks to assist us in this endeavour.

Hate Morning Workouts? You Should Probably Read This

Posted By Aemilia Madden7/15/14

1. Set multiple alarms
When I say I set multiple alarms, I don’t mean two — I mean five or six, starting half an hour before I want to get up. If I’m not in the habit of getting up early to hit the gym, my body is not ready for the rude awakening, and I find myself hitting snooze and missing my workout. When you’re just getting into the habit, bombard yourself with obnoxious alarms and know that while you’re totally miserable in the moment, you’ll thank yourself later.

2. Lay out everything the night before.
Shorts, check. Sports bra, check. Water bottle, keys . . . check, check. Scrambling around half delirious in the morning is not the most effective way to start the day. I’ve found that when I can plan ahead and have everything ready at arms reach, it’s much more likely I’ll make it out the door and to my 7 a.m. Spin class on time.

3. Make it a date
Some days it can be so difficult to get out of bed, especially when I know that there is nothing stopping me from staying snuggled under the covers. But, when I know that someone is depending on me to show up, it’s much easier to get out of bed and get my act together. Convince a friend to meet you for a morning run, and you won’t be able to skip out.

4. Cut travel time
My gym is a 10-minute walk from home (or five-minute jog, if I’m feeling ambitious . . . ), and the quick commute means that I can sneak in every extra minute of sleep possible. Since a longer commute would mean getting up even earlier, finding a gym that was literally around the corner meant that making an excuse about travel time was no longer an option. Even if a nearby gym isn’t an option, running outside or doing a video in your living room can help you sneak in a workout, no matter how short on time you feel.

5. Leave no escape
At my gym, signing up for a class and then not showing up is a major no-no that can lead to a ding on your account. So, to get myself out of bed and into the gym, I’ve started signing up for morning classes the night before. If I know there are consequences for not showing up, it’s more likely that I’ll get up and get my act together. If your gym is more forgiving, make your own ultimatums. Live with a roommate or a significant other? Pay them $5 if you sleep in — when your money is on the table, getting to the gym will seem easy.

6. Don’t sweat a slip-up
Some days I miss the mark and end up skipping my workout, especially after indulging a little too much the night before. It’s important to accept that I’m not going to make my goal every time. If you miss a workout, don’t beat yourself up; just pay attention to what went wrong — were you up too late the night before? Did you just turn off your alarm instead of getting up? Listen to your body, and learn from what didn’t work instead of getting upset.

7. Plan a reward

Call me crazy, but one of my favorite treats is a refreshing, rich iced latte. Since they can be pretty pricey, I try to keep this delicious treat to something I enjoy on the weekend only. But, I’ve found that if I promise myself a slightly sweet, strong, and milky cup of deliciousness on the way to work if I hit the gym first. It’s easier for me to face the day knowing that a treat is coming my way.

8. Crash early
OK, I admit it — this is the puzzle piece I consider my weakness. I’m a night owl, and as hard as I try to hit the hay at 9 p.m., I’ll just toss and turn until my body decides it’s ready for sleep, usually around 1:30 a.m. I’ve found the longer I work at adjusting my schedule, the easier it becomes but, there are still days I wish that I was able to magically pass out. I’ve learned that turning off the TV and closing my laptop an hour before hopping into bed does seem to help, so be sure to shut off the screens when you’re trying to go to bed earlier than normal.

9. Remember the results
I never expected that switching my workout routine from after work to before it would affect my mood throughout the day, but I swear it has. Though I may feel sluggish getting out the door, once I’ve sweated out my morning weariness, I leave the gym feeling seriously refreshed and invigorated. Maybe it’s the endorphins, or maybe it’s the fact that the day is now full of possibilities — but I am ready to hit the ground running. If you’re struggling to find the motivation, just remember the energy you will feel pulsing through your body as soon as you step out the doors and start the rest of your day.

Hope these tips and tricks help you all become early risers!

Farming in the City

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As I walked along the streets of Toronto yesterday, I passed the cutest little space at 369 King Street West and had to take a photo of it. At first I thought it was just a quaint farmer’s market but as I walked in, I noticed that the area also houses a 500-square-foot garden that grows vegetables and herbs, right here in the middle of the city. I am beyond excited to purchase a variety of fresh, organic produce, practically in my backyard!

Why?

1. Prior to this garden’s appearance, this space was a dirty, deserted area that was filled with garbage. Now it is a beautiful, green oasis in the middle of the city.

2. Local produce tastes much better since it is fresh. It does not travel long distances over a span of days, where the sugars can convert to starches and the plant cells lose water. This alters the flavour of the produce.

3.Local produce is fresher, so it retains the majority of its nutrients. As soon as fruits, vegetables or herbs are harvested away from their life source, they begin to lose nutrients quickly.

4. Local produce preserves genetic diversity. Large commercial farms rely on a low amount of hybrid produce, to create strong crops that will withstand a number of factors such as pests, droughts, floods, handling and shipping.

5. Since local produce does not travel very far, we conserve energy and reduce pollution in its transportation.

6. In addition to reducing pollution from petroleum related emissions, local produce also requires less packaging that needs to be discarded.

7. Farms also provide protection for our environment and wildlife to keep Toronto’s biodiversity from diminishing in this, “concrete jungle”.

8. Buying local food supports local farmers and their families, while also providing a sense of community.

It was incredible to see fresh fruits and vegetables that looked healthier than anything I’ve seen in a grocery store all year long. It was also informative and reassuring to speak to the vendors at the garden about their natural and organic methods of farming. Lastly, it was nice to interact with fellow buyers on that lovely summer afternoon and trade recipes with them. If you are not already buying locally grown food, I would highly recommend you look into it. If you are not close to a farmer’s market, some companies do deliver, like the Fresh City Farm on 369 King Street West. For more information, check out their website here. I now have a surplus of fruits and vegetables – anyone have any recipe ideas for me?

Rise and Grind

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The view of the sunrise from my bedroom at 6am is reason enough to wake up and work out.

Summer is one of the busiest times of the year, so understandably the easiest time to make excuses of why you are unable to fit that work out into your daily schedule. Here are the top 5 reasons why you need to make a habit out of waking up and working out aka rising and grinding:

1. Your chances of being distracted early in the morning are much lower. You are able to avoid the crowd at the gym and most people are still sleeping and not e-mailing you, calling you or vying for your attention. 

2. Exercising in the morning, “jump starts”, your metabolism and keeps it at an increased rate for up to 12 hours. This means that you are expending more calories doing your daily activities, as opposed to working out in the evening and wasting your elevated metabolism rate on sleeping where you are burning a minimal amount of calories.

3. One reason your body knows it’s time to emerge from your slumber is due to higher levels of hormones like adrenaline, which causes one’s heartbeat to rise. Taking advantage of this surge in adrenaline and heart rate by doing cardio in the morning, will increase your cardiovascular health. If you are experiencing heart related problems, please speak to your physician before trying this.

4. If you are solely active for weight loss reasons, waking up and exercising on an empty stomach could be be advantageous for you. “Your muscles don’t have much sugar to draw from so you are more likely to tap into your stored energy, which means releasing and burning what I refer to as surplus fat,” says Founder and CEO of Diet Free Life, LLC, Robert Ferguson, M.S., C.N. However, if your workout goals are performance related, you will need to fuel up with food a.k.a. energy, to reach your full potential.

5. With our busy and unpredictable schedules, setting time aside to exercise in the morning is the only way to ensure that it will be completed. This helps to develop a pattern of consistent workouts, so that you see results sooner.


Still not motivated to rise and grind? Check out this inspiring Nike video:

BULLETPROOF COFFEE

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Need an extra pep in your step? Do you like coffee and butter? It’s the latest caffeine trend to hit the market: Bulletproof Coffee. Created by Dave Asprey and inspired by the Tibetan Yak Butter Tea, this recipe blends 2 cups of hot coffee brewed with low-toxin coffee beans, 1 to 2 tbsp of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and 2 tbsp of unsalted butter from grass-fed cows. Bulletproof Coffee is guaranteed to keep you full and energized you for up to 6 hours! Watch Asprey concoct his signature beverage here.

How does Bulletproof coffee work?

1. The caffeine in the coffee beans is a known performance enhancer that increases metabolism and cognitive function, while decreasing fatigue.

2. Grass-fed butter is essentially a super food for the heart, as it is full of antioxidants, HDL (the good) cholesterol and vitamin K2, which decalcifies arteries. It also contains conjugated linoleic acid that burns body fat!

3. MCT’s are arguably the healthiest fats and similarly to carbohydrates are taken to the liver, where they are directly used for energy. MCTs also boost metabolism and increases energy since it is more likely to be burned as fuel, than stored as body fat. In addition, MCTs increase fat oxidation and reduced food intake.

Together, these three ingredients create a beverage that increases mental sharpness, overall energy and metabolism while decreasing hunger

Are there any side effects?

There have not been any long term studies on the consumption of Bulletproof Coffee but some health officials are concerned that regular drinkers are replacing meals with this 440-calorie beverage and thus, not consuming an adequate amount of nutrients in their diets. 

I have yet to try Bulletproof Coffee, since I have not located a coffee shop in Toronto that offers it, so if you know of one that does, please notify me. In the meantime, I’m going to attempt this more tasty recipe that I found on Wellness Mama, for buttered coffee, (basically the same product, without the trademark): 

Ingredients
  • 1 cup of organic coffee, herbal coffee or chai tea
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or more, I usually put in 2-3 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon organic grassfed unsalted butter
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
  • a few drops of stevia extract (optional) 
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Mix on high speed for 20 seconds until frothy. Drink immediately and enjoy all the energy!

Are any of you interested in trying this with me? We can have a tea party!

YOGA BASICS

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Here Melissa and I practice yoga in the park

Looking to get outdoors and try something fun this summer? Try doing a yoga class in a park! Many of you related to my very first blog post, which I did on yogi extraordinaire, Melissa Tung’s impact on my life. If you missed it, you can find it here. However, I received many other messages from readers who were interested in yoga but didn’t know where to begin their practice, were too intimidated by traditional yoga studios, or just wanted to enjoy summer before committing to a new fitness regime. After attending one of Melissa’s weekly yoga sessions at a King West park, I immediately thought this would be a perfect and organic way for those readers to ease into this skillful art of the yogis, or for more advanced practitioners to add a different dimension to their practice.

Melissa’s class caters to all experience levels and incorporates varying degrees of intensity in a friendly and serene environment. I wanted to use this opportunity to demonstrate some of the basic yoga poses that we practise and highlight their main importance as a tutorial for those of you would like to get started with yoga. As I mentioned in my first post, please do not attempt these poses for the first time, on your own – start by going to a beginner class with a trained yoga instructor to learn how to do these poses properly and effectively.

1. Downward-Facing Dog

IMG_0539This pose calms the brain and body, while stretching and strengthening the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches and hands. It can also relieve insomnia, back pain, menstrual cramps, improve digestion and prevent osteoporosis.

 

2. Tree Pose

IMG_0537This pose strengthens the thighs, calves, ankles, and spine while stretching the groin, inner thighs, chest and shoulders. It also improves sense of balance and helps to relieve sciatica and reduces flat feet.

 

3. Extended Triangle Pose

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This pose stretches and strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles. It stretches the hips, groin, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, chest, and spine. It also helps to stimulate the abdominal organs and improves digestion, while relieving stress and anxiety.

 

4. Seated Twist

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This pose stretches the shoulders, hips, and neck while helping to maintain normal spine rotation. It also stimulates the internal organs by allowing oxygenated blood to flow in when the twist is released.

 

5. Pigeon Pose

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Side View

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Front View

This pose opens up the hip flexor muscles, hip rotator muscles and groin muscles. It also increases circulation to the urinary, digestive, and reproductive systems.

 

6. Bridge Pose

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This pose stretches the chest, neck, and spine. It also calms the brain and helps alleviate stress and mild depression while stimulating the  abdominal organs lungs, and thyroid. After seeing these basic poses, understanding the gist of their benefits and learning of welcoming places to practice yoga, I hope that all of you hopeful yogis feel a bit more comfortable in beginning this transformational process of learning yoga. For more information on any of these poses, check out Melissa’s video collection on Vimeo. Or contact her on her website. For more inspiration and motivation, follow her on Instagram, or on Twitter. Hope to see you at one of her yoga in the park class before the summer is over!