live it active

Wednesday Workout Tip: Schedule your workout

Work is exhausting. You get up, shower, dress, feed yourself and other family members if you have kiddies, pack lunches, and finally, run out the door hoping to catch the train/bus/magic carpet to work.

And when you get home at the end of the day all you want to do is flop on the couch (even if you’ve sat at a desk all day). Thus, getting in a workout is challenging when you work.

My advice? Plan, plan, plan. Schedule, schedule, schedule.

Schedule to do your workout at lunch. If that’s not possible, do your workout RIGHT when you arrive home at the end of the day. Don’t even think about it, just get your gym clothes on and go. It will eventually become routine and you will look forward to it (I promise).

What about dinner you say? Make meals ahead. Ask your partner to fill in. Ask your child (if old enough) to start helping out.  If you have a baby or toddler, most gyms now offer babysitting services. Take the baby with you (either in one of those neat pouches or stroller). Eat later.

Whatever you do, schedule your workout. Make it a priority. Make yourself a priority. Health is something that you need to work at – so start working at it.




Make a love book

I would assume your first question is – “what is a love book?”. Nope – it’s nothing sexual (not sure if your mind went there, but mine did). A love book can be between any two (or three, or four, or five) people OR it can be for your eyes only.

OK, I’ll elaborate. I read an article where a mother had her NINE children write/draw/colour her something/anything in one book every single Mother’s day. These drawing/etc. are in lieu of a gift. She has accumulated many books over the past 27 years of being a mother and is able to document the various transitions of her children through these heart-felt images and words.

I love the love book. I am going to implement it with my children (when they arrive). I also thought it would be interesting to develop one with your mate. When you live with someone and/or have been with them for an extended period of time finding them a novel and exciting gift can be difficult. Why not write them a poem in your love book?

You could also create a love book with yourself. It could be about anything but my thought was to use it for your health/wellness/fitness journey. You could draw a picture of yourself (or insert a photograph) at the beginning of your journey and keep track of your changes visually. You could write about how you feel or draw yourself running/biking/swimming/weight-lifting. I think this would be a wonderful way to track your successes and more aware of your set-backs.

Whatever type of love book you choose to create (if you do at all), enjoy it.


Wednesday Workout Tip: Revel in your success

We don’t congratulate ourselves enough, especially when it comes to health and fitness. Think about it, how often do you catch yourself saying (out loud) “whooeee, that was a hard workout but I did – damn, I’m good”? I would assume very rarely. You may hear others complimenting your efforts every now and again, but do you ever revel in your own success? No? Well, you should.

Taking stock of your efforts and accomplishments is important as it allows you to determine your progression over a certain period of time.

For example, you’ve been running for three months. You’ve managed to lose one pound and still feel as exhausted at the end of your run as you did when you started. What’s going on?

I want you to stop. Grab a piece of paper and pen/pencil and sit down. I want you to think about each run you have completed over the past three months. Here are the questions I want you to ask yourself:

  • What distance did I start at?
  • What time did I complete that distance in?
  • Did my distance change?
  • What distance am I doing now and what time am I running that distance in?
  • How do I feel at work?
  • How do I feel during periods of stress?
  • How well, physically, do I feel now?
  • How well, emotionally, do I feel now?
You can ask other questions, but I want you to definitely ask yourself these ones. Answering these questions will help you to determine and finally accept your progress. Better yet, answering these questions will allow you to see and accept how truly capable and awesome you are. And if, when answering these questions you do not see progress, make a list of you can make positive change for your physical, emotional, and spiritual self.
Happy answering.
Image courtesy of Hamad Al Mohannna

Tips and tricks to improve your productivity at work

Two weeks ago I posted on the various methods you could employ to improve your morning wake-up. So you’ve now improved your morning wake-up, but once you get to the office your focus and excitement for the day (e.g. your joie de vivre) are on their way out the window.

That’s not good for many reasons. Primarily because your productivity will decrease, but also because you are not taking advantage of your prime hours – 9 AM to 12 PM. These are the golden hours for work according to Dr. Lynne Hasher, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto.

So how do you take advantage? Here are a few ideas:

1. Do productivity sprints. Take a break every 90 minutes. Changing channels physically, emotionally, or mentally every so often will help maintain your focus and energy for when you return to the task at hand.

2. Stop gabbing. I know, I know you want to catch up with your cubicle mate about the long-weekend, but this chatter really cuts into your work time. Save it for lunch.

3. Breathe. Of course you’re breathing while you’re working, but most of the time you are sitting hunched over your keyboard which restricts the diaphragm. This leads to shallow breathing and thus, less oxygen circulating through your bloodstream. So sit up, roll back your shoulders, inhale deeply (with eyes closed preferably) and exhale. Dr. Margaret Chesney, a professor of medicine at the University of California encourages people to take a breath every time they look at the clock.

4. Caffeinate yourself. Yes, drinking coffee will boost alertness and focus. Yet, you want to restrain yourself to two eight-ounce cups before lunchtime. Drinking after lunch will likely keep those peepers open long into the night.

5. Pack a good lunch. Lunchables, McDonald’s, and leftover KD just don’t cut it. Pack a lunch loaded with protein and some good carbohydrates. This may be a multigrain bagel sandwich with lean turkey breast and some decadent toppings (e.g. mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato). Nourish your body – you will feel less tired, more alert, and more happy. If you don’t believe me keep a food journal and record how you feel after every meal.

6. Get up. You knew it was coming – the physical activity break. I am now talking to that little voice inside your head asking “does it actually matter?”. Indeed it does. My graduate research looked at that exact question and those spurts of moderately intense physical activity (e.g. activity that makes you breathe a little harder) is positively correlated with your fitness. So get up and march over to the water cooler, dance while you get your water, and run back to your desk while drinking. Just kidding, you can march back to your desk instead of run.

All kidding aside, it’s important to take breaks and reward your mental and physical self throughout the day.

Happy breaking.


Source: Real Simple. July 2011.

Wednesday Workout Tip: Set Goals

Goal setting is important. Without a goal(s) you can easily lose your focus – your joie de vivre for exercise.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals (an acronym commonly used by my colleague, Ashlee McGuire) is imperative for long-term success. 

Specific – Make your goal(s) specific. Make many short-term goals (e.g. I will run for 30 minutes at lunch Monday, Wednesday, Friday) that will help you accomplish a long-term goal (e.g. a half marathon). And make sure you figure out all the details – when, where, with who, what type of exercise, etc.

Measurable – Is your goal measurable? Measuring and keeping track of your success is imperative to maintain your motivation. You need to determine how you measure and track your success. Perhaps you write down in a planner or place a gold star sticker on the days you meet your target.     

Attainable – How can you attain this goal? What steps can you do to make your goal(s) feasible? Do you feel strongly about your goal? If not, find a new goal (nothing is set in stone). If I were to set a goal to swim across Lake Ontario, I would undoubtedly fail. Why? I dislike swimming long distances and well, I stink at swimming. You must be passionate about your goal. Dedication brings forth planning. Planning brings about success (usually).

Realistic – Sometimes we think we are superhuman and can accomplish daring Zeus-like feats. However, when you set a goal to run a marathon (for example) when you have never run in your life you are potentially setting yourself up for failure. And nobody, I mean nobody, likes failure. This doesn’t mean you should make easy-peasy goals. What I am trying to communicate is that your goal should be humanly possible and more specifically, within your realm of capability.  

Timely – Make sure to set a deadline. Sign up for a race. Tell people what you are doing. Make it known to the world that you are going to run 5 KM, start dragon boating, or start a neighbourhood walking group. Don’t be wishy-washy – this is about your health, longevity and happiness. Take time for yourself.

Happy goal setting.


Change your brain through meditation

Do you meditate? Do you want to, but have never found the time to do it? Well, I suggest you read this article and see how much it inspires you to make the time.

Enjoy and happy Tuesday!


Eating well on a budget – Yes, it’s possible

Good morning (hopefully not s’morning).

Right now, things may be a little tight for you (I am speaking about finances, but if your pants are feeling a little on the tight side the following recipe should help). Eating well on a budget can be difficult, but not impossible.

The crock pot is an amazing invention that allows you to eat well and save money. I have made a number of delicious, nutritious, and money savvy meals using that gift of the gods.

Yet today, I share with you a recipe that does not require the use of a crock pot (but I do encourage you to purchase one or steal the old, dusty one sitting in your parents pantry). The recipe is Huevos Rancheros (translation: Country-style Mexican eggs). It is one of the simplest, most delicious recipes I have made.

What you need – 1 can of black beans, 2 cups of salsa, 4 eggs, 2 green onions, 1/4 cup cilantro, guacamole (home-made or store-bought), tortillas, and sour cream. Jalapeno peppers are optional (I included them and they were delicious).


1. Rinse beans and put in frying pan along with salsa (and peppers if including). Bring to a simmer. Make little pools for the eggs with a spoon in the mixture.

2. Crack eggs and gently place in the pools. Cover pan and let eggs cook.

3. When eggs are almost done add green onions and cilantro.

4. Warm up tortillas.

5. Place beans/salsa and egg on top of the tortilla. Add sour cream and guacamole.

6. Eat.

If you want to make home-made guacamole you will need 1 avocado, 5-8 cherry tomatoes, 1/2 a lemon, 1 garlic clove, onion (amount is up to you), salt and pepper. All you do is mix everything together and presto, you’re done. It’s always better to let the guac sit for a couple of hours in the fridge.

If you work it out this meal (including the full cost of the cilantro which can be a bit pricey) is $2.30 per person (not including guac). If you don’t include the full cost of cilantro (which makes sense as you will likely use it in other meals) the cost per person drops to $1.80!

Enjoy your country-style, Mexican eggs! And enjoy saving a penny or two.


Wednesday Workout Tip: Strengthen your core

I’ve touched on the importance of working and maintaining a strong core in previous posts. Having a strong core improves your balance, posture, and helps to reduce lower back pain (that is only if you incorporate exercises that work your lower back muscles).

This is an easy core workout that can be accomplished in 15 minutes or less.

1. Knee fold tuck – Sit tall, hands on floor, knees bent, squeezing a playground ball between them (I use a towel). Lift your knees of the ground and extend your arms. Pull knees towards shoulders, keeping that upper body still. Bring knees back to starting position. Repeat 15-20 times.

2. Climbing rope – Sit with legs extended and feet turned out in a V position, toes pointed. Contract core muscles and roll spine into a C-curve. Lift your arms and move them as if you were climbing a rope. Twist slightly each time you reach. Do 20 reaches with each arm. I love this exercise and it is a great core workout as it engages your back and abdominal muscles.

3. Side balance crunch – Begin with left knee and left hand on the the floor (like your about to do a side plank). Extend your right arm up towards the ceiling and your right leg straight out away from the body (not up, as that would be pretty darn awkward). Pull right knee toward torso and right elbow toward knee. Straighten arm and leg. Repeat 10-15 times, then switch sides. You must remember to engage your abs while performing these motions.

4. Circle plank – Start in a plank position with abs tight. Pull right knee in and circle it clockwise, then counterclockwise. Keep the rest of your body stationary. Repeat 5-10 times and then switch legs. If you struggle with this, just work on perfecting the plank. Make sure that your hands are below your shoulders and that your butt is in line with your back and legs.

5. Fish flops – Lie down on your stomach and extend your arms out in front. Bring your legs together. At the same time, lift your arms and legs slightly off the ground using both your abdominal and lower back muscles. If you don’t regularly work your lower back do about 5-8 repititions to start. You can increase the number slowly and always remember to stretch your back afterwards.

6. Sliding plank – Begin in a plank position on an uncarpeted floor, hands under shoulders and a towel under feet. With legs straight, raise hips and draw legs toward hands into a pike position – your feet should slide easily (this is only if you have an 8-pack – I had to really work to bring my legs into this position). Hold for one count, then return to start. Repeat 10 times.

7. Oblique crunch – Sit on the floor with legs in front and knees bent. Lean back slightly so that your back forms a 45 degree angle with the floor (or as far back as you feel comfortable). Put your hands up and behind your ears. Twist your upper back from the right and then to the left while engaging your abdominal muscles. Try to do this 15 times per side.

8. Stretch, stretch, stretch. Make sure you stretch out your lower back. This can be accomplished by touching your toes (or lower parts of your leg if you’re like me). Try to stretch out your hip flexors, hamstrings, and abs as well. I will talk more about stretching next week, but do a quick internet search to find some goodies.

Happy hump day!


Want a better morning wake up?

Good morn’n, good smorn’n…is this the way you’re feeling this fine morning? Do you have a bad case of the Monday’s? Do you have a case of the Monday’s every day of the week?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, please read on. The following tips about how to get more spark and pep in your mornings are taken from one my favourite magazines – Real Simple. I know what you’re thinking – how can a science girl use a magazine for health tips? Because magazines (good magazines) can actually offer truthful, well-researched, and useful advice on basic fitness, health, and beauty.  

1. Let in the sun. Getting some brilliant rays in your peepers tells the brain to stop producing melatonin (your sleep hormone). In addition to amping up the sunlight, start stretching your limbs. This will help to raise your body temperature and increases blood flow to your groggy brain.

2. Look at something you love (a picture, a flower, etc.). Apparently, morning time = survival mode for us animals (yes, we are animals people). In the morning, we are driven to meet the basic needs of hunger and thirst and this indicates to the body that we are under threat. This can really sap our energy. Some say that having an object that elicits a positive emotion will help to combat the morning time fight- or flight-response (try it out and let me know if it works).

3. Get your running pants on.  A morning workout elicits endorphins which will help boost your energy levels and focus. If you haven’t already, pick up the book Spark. One of the chapters of this book talks about a school district in the US that has all (I believe) students engage in exercise prior to school. The district now ranks 6th and 7th in math and science on an international scale. All in all, exercise is good brain food and will help you get out of your morning stupor.

4. Scent your shower. Apparently, using products with eucalyptus, citrus or mint will get your neurons firing. While I am not 100% certain about the validity of this claim (further research is required), I do know that you’ll sure smell nice.

5. Eat a colourful breakfast. You should be piling your plate with 80% colourful, unprocessed foods. Real Simple provides some suggestions for both the sweet- and savory-tooth. For sweet, have whole-grain French toast with strawberries and maple syrup (um, yum) OR a smoothie with blue-berries, orange juice, and a scoop of protein powder. For savory, have a whole-grain tortilla  with scrambled eggs or black beans, sliced avocado, sliced tomato, salsa or fresh cilantro (um, yum).

Here’s to better mornings (clink of glasses – no, I am not drinking a mimosa alone, but how I wish I was).   


The Power of Now

This is the title of a book written by Eckhart Tolle who is touted by many as a sort of modern-day spiritual guru. It was referenced by Oprah in 2000 and became the number one book two years later on the New York Times Bestseller list for hardcover advice. So, all in all, it’s a pretty popular book.

Popularity, however, does not necessarily mean quality. I wanted to see for myself whether this book was worth all the hype so, I read it.

I am not exaggerating when I say, this book has altered my life. Many of the sentiments and ideas expressed in the book resonated with me. Tolle discusses the concept of self, our constant fixation on past and future events, and the anxiety and unease that stems from this focus. He discusses a concept called the “pain body” which sounds strange, but really hit home with me.

There are of course limitations to the book. The reader can sometimes get bogged down in his language, certain ideas, and references to religious teachings. At first, I found this distracting, however, these references were relevant to the lesson or idea he was trying to convey. I have to admit, I did skip over some of the sections that I found overly religious or preachy, but those sections were few and far between.  

Overall, this book is worth the read. Tolle focuses on the concept of Now – being present in the moment and dis-identifying from the self. I know, dis-identifying from the self sounds weird. If you choose to read this book, you’ll understand.

It is important to note that this concept is not new, the Buddhists have been practicing this form of meditation if you will, for centuries. Tolle is merely modernizing and adding some of his own insights to this practice. So if you don’t want to read his book there are a number (I mean thousands) of different books you can choose from that delve into Buddhist teachings and practices. 

 Happy reading.



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