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How to Reward Yourself and Stay Motivated

You've reached your weight loss goals! Congratulations!

Now how do you stay motivated, reward yourself and keep your lifestyle changes intact without falling back into your old routine?

At this point being overweight may feel like an alternate reality - you probably haven't felt this fit since you were a teenager! But feeling great about yourself doesn't mean you can go back to your old ways. If anything you need to remind yourself so you avoid falling into a rut, and keeping yourself motivated to exercise is a handy part of that.

#1. Make a list of things you wanted to do when you were overweight but were physically unable to do / embarrassed to attempt. eg. Run a marathon, go snorkeling, dancing, etc. Go and do those things and have a fun time!

#2. For holidays and birthdays, ask for sports / exercise equipment or personal training gift cards.

I know what I would ask for - archery equipment. It gets pretty expensive. But you might also ask for a bicycle or things for your bicycle, tennis gear, jogging pants, new running shoes... plenty of things you could use.

Personal training gift cards are another handy thing. If you live in Toronto and want to buy personal training sessions for yourself or a loved one, send me an email and I can help you out.

#3. Charity and Fundraisers.

Volunteering to raise funding for a worthwhile cause can be a great way to stay in shape and have fun. Such events require you to go outside regularly and some of them involve "walks for charity" whereby sponsors donate and you and 500 other people promise to walk, jog or run X miles to raise awareness. eg. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Run for the Cure.

#4. Involve your Friends and Family.

Success is contagious. If your friends and family haven't seen your results, show them what you did and encourage them to start a fitness and nutrition program on their own - and then you can help them with advice and even workout together.

Once people you know are also exercising and eating healthy, having another person to talk to about it, share recipes, and attend events you will have even more fun enjoying your new body.

#5. Sex!

No seriously. You and your lover can enjoy yourselves more often. Nothing wrong with that side benefit!

Sun Salutations in Yoga

During the physical practice of yoga, the session will sometimes begin with an exercise known as sun salutations. This series of twelve moving postures (asanas) are timed with breathing (inhaling and exhaling). The series is repeated anywhere from three times or more. Due to the nature of the sun salutation's constant movement, breath work, stretches and mental concentration, they encompass many common components of fitness, and makes for a challenging and effective total body workout.

Five Benefits of doing Sun Salutations

1. Postures such as chaturanga, (negative tricep push up), the Crescent pose, (lunges) and plank are body weight strength exercises that will burn more fat while at rest, decrease risk of injury and maintain bone density. Sun salutations strengthen the core very well, and yoga is commonly prescribed for low back injury and rehabilitation.

2. Sun Salutations have the potential to be very cardiovascular and burn a lot of calories while exercising your lungs and heart. Consistent movement, inverted poses (head lower than heart) like downward dog, and holding poses will improve heart and lung capacity, increase endurance and aid weight loss.

3. Poses like forward bends and downward dog will increase flexibility when practiced regularly. Sun Salutations are fantastic for releasing tension in the hamstrings and hips.

4. Focusing on timed breathing will increase mental focus and reduce stress. It teaches perseverance, mental toughness gives you a goal and something to think about to clear your mind during practice.

5. Sun Salutations will give you an all-around nice body! Yogis are known for their elongated muscles, lower body fat and over-all athleticism. Many martial artists also do yoga.

How to do a Proper Bicep Curl - and get better results!

Bicep training is handy for people who want to see results. It's one of the muscle groups that everyone can tone and actually see results within a week if they are doing them right. Nice biceps are the hallmark of a fantastic physique, and naturally weight lifting is the cornerstone to achieving chiseled, strong and sexy arms.

It's very common for amateurs to train biceps the most frequently, but then see the fewest gains and results because they aren't doing them properly.

This is mostly due to the natural inclination of amateurs to only perform half the exercise.

Let me explain...

During a bicep curl the weight is lifted from the thigh up to the shoulder. On the way back down (the negative rep) many simply allow the weight to quickly drop back into starting position without any control or form. Thus they are lifting the weight - but they're not lowering it slowly on the way back down.

If you want to do bicep curls it is best to focus on form and do them slowly. It will force you to focus on that negative rep because it is an entirely different bicep exercise than the positive ascent - and it is arguably the most important part of the exercise.

Another thing you might try is to "Hammer Up, Bicep Curl Down", for which the instructions are below.

1. Start either seated or standing (better for the core) with two dumbbells in each hand with enough weight which will fatigue your biceps in the range of your strength training goal, anywhere from 10 to 15 reps. (Don't use dumbbells which are too heavy or too light.)

2. With palms facing each other, curl the weights up to your shoulder. That's the positive hammer curl.

3. Now rotate your wrists so both palms face you and slowly, with complete control, lower the weights all the way back down until arms have only a slight bend in the elbow. That's the negative bicep curl.

Perform a set and then reverse the order, bicep curl up, hammer curl down for a balanced arm workout! This focus on form will help you to get more out of your bicep exercises.

If you want more advice on weight lifting you can always hire me as your personal training here in Toronto. Happy weight lifting!

Hallmarks of the Successful Weight Loss Plan

Losing weight involves lifestyle changes and lots of hard work but planning is also very important. Planning for weight loss will guarantee a focused approach to stay on track and keep progressing / pushing yourself harder.

Planning For Weight Loss in Three Steps

Plan your Meals

Knowing every meal in advance will not only save time and money but is crucial for avoiding overeating and poor food choices. Some people have found that it is easiest to eat similar meals for breakfast and lunch.

For example: If you have different variations of oatmeal 2 days, cottage cheese, dried fruit and flax meal 2 days, and an English muffin with peanut butter one day, you will have enough ingredients to vary these meals based on what you feel like. It's simple enough that it doesn't take much thought or time to prepare. For lunch try sandwiches on whole grain bread and a piece of fruit.

Take extra fruits for snacks if you find yourself feeling hungry during the day!

Plan your Workouts

If you don't know when you will find the time to workout, you won't workout! It's very important to have a set time to exercise. Even better, the same time everyday will quickly accustom you to a routine. It will be amazing how much time you have for exercise when you actually want to exercise!

If you find that time is seriously pressed then do what you can, when you can. Do a set of squats while talking on the phone, or lunge across the house instead of walking. Try running up every flight of stairs you encounter during the day, and do calf raises waiting in line-ups.

Plan for Disaster

Plan for your weight loss program to be blown out of the water once in a while. Especially if the holiday season is approaching it will not be long before someone hands you a box of chocolates and you know you will eat 5 once you've tried one.

Don't be discouraged but do remember to share your holiday treats, eat them in moderation and remember that every new day offers the opportunity to start fresh.

If you live in Toronto and are losing weight or would like to start, feel free to hire me as you personal trainer. Mention this post and get 10% off any purchase of 10 sessions or more. (Limit of 1 per customer.)

Belly Dancing for Exercise

Belly dancing (and any kind of dancing for that matter) is a great way to get extra cardio into your exercise routine. Especially since its fun!

It is really only popular for women (not too many male belly dancers out there...), but it is a really engaging way to exercise and build up your core / abdominal muscles.

Indeed, belly dancing can help you lose weight and burn as many calories as more strenuous exercises like cycling or running, as long as the workouts are consistently challenging and you are moving around a lot. Thus belly dancing can make for a really intense workout if you have the energy to try it and stick with it. Thankfully it is also fun, so your lack of skill at the beginning doesn't really matter as you will quickly get better at it as you progress.

If you think that you would like to try belly dancing as a form of exercise, don't be intimidated. Look for a good instructor who will keep you moving and having a good time.


#1. Dress the Part

The lavish Eastern costumes are part of the authenticity of belly dance classes. You may feel weird wearing them at first, but its part of the fun too if you get a chance to perform. Call the studio or instructor ahead of time to see what patrons usually wear to class. You may just wear regular workout/yoga gear, but some  instructors may ask you to come in costume. A basic costume could include yoga pants, a hip scarf for emphasis, and a midriff-baring choli so that your instructor can see and help you with the movement of your hips and posture.

#2. Get In Character

You'll get more out of your belly dance exercise classes if you release your inhibitions and get in character. The more movement you get through your hips and thighs, the more beneficial the class will be. Think of your class as a performance and just have a good time. Don't worry about how you look or if you're making a fool of yourself - part of the appeal of belly dancing is how exotic it looks anyway, so its bound to look weird. Belly dancing is more beneficial when you are giving it your total effort without being self-conscious.

Side Benefit - Belly Dancing boosts your confidence and decreases shyness.

#3. Loose Joints and Posture

Belly dancing focuses on the abdominal and hip region, so when you begin to learn to belly dance, it may seem strange to you to move those areas so freely. Keep your joints soft so that they can flow freely, while keeping your spine straight and your head up. Keep your shoulders back at all times, with your tailbone dropped to the floor. Over time if you practice proper form this will become easier and second nature for you, but in the beginning you will need to pay attention to your form.

Want to Beat Fat? Learn Your Enemy!

If fatty food is your waistline's enemy then you should try to learn more about this dreaded foe.

Fat is a slow burning energy source - and it is typically stored instead of used right away. Eating healthy fats will contribute to hormonal regulation, aids vitamin and mineral absorption and maintains healthy skin and hair. Of course, good and bad cholesterol, healthy and unhealthy fats, saturated and monounsaturated are terms which you have already come across, and it can all seem confusing if you don't know what they are!

Different Kinds of Fats


They are the "bad fats." Saturated fat raises cholesterol. Foods such as butter margarine, meat and dairy contain high levels of saturated fat.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated

These fats do not raise cholesterol levels. Cooking oils such as olive and canola contain monounsaturated fats, while safflower and corn oil contain polyunsaturated fat.


Fats that contain, in varying proportions, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.


An essential fat made by the liver. Eating food high in "bad" cholesterol can cause heart disease. Cholesterol is carried through the bloodstream by lipoproteins.

HDLs (high density lipoproteins)

The "good" cholesterol which can move cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver.

LDLs (low density lipoproteins)

LDLs are the "bad" cholesterols because they keep cholesterol circulating in the blood, and this can lead to clogged arteries.

Eating healthy fats is easy, they are foud in seeds, nut, olive oil and avocado fruits. Bad fats are in baked goods, such as white bread, pizza and fast food. Don't stress about all of the different types of fat too much. Just focus on the natural stuff and avoid any fats which are "man made". You will still eat some of the unhealthier fats anyway, but if you know which ones to avoid it can help you to make healthier choices.

When To Detox Diet

Detox diets have been growing ever more popular for the past several decades. There have been dangerous detox diets, such as the lemonade or grapefruit detox diets, where necessary food groups and nutrients are restricted.

More recently detox diets are being designed so they are healthier, including lemonade / grapefruit diets which have been modified so you are now getting the needed nutrients (often through vitamin pill supplementation or the addition of specific foods).

Personally my own fitness philosophy revolves around good old-fashioned healthy eating and lots of exercise - but I am a personal trainer and not everyone is as patient as I am. Eating good food in abundance, and not so good food in moderation, and avoiding horrible food entirely is just the beginning.

Good food and a consistent fitness regimen, is the tried, tested and true way - short cuts are more likely to result in yo-yo dieting. However there are some benefits to detoxification, so lets explore the pros and cons of detox diets:

Pros of a Detox Diet

#1. If you have always had an unhealthy diet containing a lot of horribly carcinogenic foods a detox diet may help to correct bad habits. Many detox plans will be restrictive, such as avoiding nightshade vegetables, or bread but will allow most vegetables, beans, and legumes. Simply trying a detox diet might break the cycle of a poor diet, so it's worth a shot.

#2. Placebo Effect. Sometimes just doing something - anything healthy that it - will help you to feel better about yourself. Whether it's because the diet is actually working, or due to the psychological benefit of sticking to a goal, it has the potential to make you feel good about yourself and accomplished. And if the cycle of positivity continues then you will just continue to feel better and better about yourself, making huge strides towards both eating better and exercising more.

#3. Identifying food sensitivities. It's very common to realize that your 3 PM fatigue, bloated or stomach upset has been caused by something you are eating. A detox diet will eliminate fast, processed, fried and (saturated) fatty foods, while increasing water intake - and a lot of people don't drink enough water. This can make a person feel much better and discover that a certain food, like pizza or french fries has been causing breakouts, or gastronomical distress, or even excessive farting.

Cons of Detox Diets

#1. You don't need to do a really radical diet to cleanse your body of toxins. We are already designed to detox our own bodies through our internal organs, to rid ourselves of toxins and pollutants. A rich and well rounded diet will take care of "body flushing" without huge food restrictions... all you really need to do is cut out the fatty foods, foods that are not "natural" (basically anything containing chemical additives) and avoid cigarettes and alcohol. (Which is harder for some people who can't stop themselves.)

#2. Many detox diets claim to aid weight loss. However, many of these diets combine food and beverages with diuretic and laxative effects. Basically, you lose a lot of water weight that will simply come back once the body is rehydrated, just like when we sweat. So if you do detox, remember to drink a lot of liquids.

#3. Long term detox diets can cause certain sensitivities to food that has been restricted - possibly even making you allergic. If you never had a problem eating bread, and then you stop eating it for a year, you may find that your stomach can no longer handle it. Do you really want to give up bread forever? Thus if you want to preserve you ability to eat certain foods you should still eat them once in awhile.

#4. Any diet that is not sustainable on a long term basis will not be an effective weight loss plan. As soon as the detoxee person eats normally again, it can all come back again (sometimes very quickly) as your body will think you were on a fast and will want to replenish itself immediately. You need to be thinking a long term change in your eating habits if you want long term results.

I am not against detox diets. In fact I encourage them, but they need to be done in such a way that you are not hurting yourself and you make some kind of permanent change so that you kick a specific habit - like giving up sugary chocolate and switching to small amounts of dark chocolate instead.

Healthy moderation and balance is the key to a healthy diet. Learning that is something you have to do yourself - and once you've learned it you realize that the sweets taste that much better because you only have them when you're having fun with friends or family instead of consuming them when your bored, lonely or depressed.

You really should only be detox dieting if you have genuine worries about toxins in your system - like if you are quitting smoking and you want to detoxify. Or quitting alcohol. Or you were recently poisoned by a jellyfish... Doing a detox diet to "lose weight" is not a necessity if you already eat healthy.

12 Tips for Running a Marathon

Running a marathon is the ultimate accomplishment for many runners and joggers whose goal is to stay fit or achieve a personal best, but it is also one of the most difficult fitness goal to achieve (up there with triathalons and Iron Man competitions).

Just running 42.2 kim (26.2 miles) and not hurting yourself is a physical accomplishment, as sports injuries are pretty common when running a marathon.

Regardless of your goals or completion times you need to be prepared. Running a marathon demands intense preparation in all aspects of one’s life, including training, diet, and sleep, and mental preparation. Here are 12 tips that will help any marathon runner reach their desired goals:

1. Plan well, and do so well in advance. A marathon is absolutely not something you just decide to do on a whim. It should take months of preparation. Even as much as six months or a year in advance, depending on your fitness level. Choose a marathon that is months away to work towards, and begin preparation immediately. Start logging your runs and times, starting with shorter runs (2-5 miles, depending on your endurance) during the week and longer runs on the weekend. Slowly work your way up as you build endurance.

2. Set reasonable goals. If you've never run a marathon before, don't think you'll go under-4 hours the first time out. Set goals that will push you, but that at the same time you can actually reach by keeping a log and seeing where your stamina and running capacity is well before the race begins.

3. Do practice Half Marathons. Once per month try running a half marathon and time yourself. Half marathons will give you a better idea of where you will fare when you finally do a full marathon.

4. Set Limits on your weekly running. Your goal should be to run 45 to 50 km (25 to 30 miles) per week. Basically 9 to 10 km (5 to 6 miles) fives times per week. The reason you want to limit yourself is to prevent injuries and stave off the effects of running addicition (which can lead to insomnia and a variety of health / mental problems including OCD). As your legs get stronger and you get significantly better endurance wise you can start increasing your amount of running to 90 to 100 km (55 to 60 miles), but avoid going over the 100 km per week limit. Running obscene amounts can lead to running addiction and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - causing you to lose friends and alienate family members with your addiction. (Running addicts are known to avoid going to the funerals of loved ones because they'd rather be running, go running when on vacation when they should be relaxing, avoid friends/family, etc.)

5. Eat a low-fat, high carb diet. Carbohydrates are the fuel you will need to push through a marathon and for all training runs leading up to it. Make pasta and baked potatoes a staple in your diet. Keep your diet low-fat, but not no fat; focus on good fats, like those found in poultry and fish, are necessary for storing extra energy during your runs.

6. Drink lots of fluids. Carry a nalgene or similar water bottle and try to drink at least one, if not two throughout your day. During runs, stay hydrated by bringing a smaller water bottle. Don't overdo it though: drinking an excess of water will make you feel sick and can lead to cramps, dizziness, and nausea.

7. Incorporate other exercise into your routine. Some weight lifting—particularly with a concentration on the lower body—will help build up muscular endurance for races. Yoga is also extremely helpful to runners in that it helps stretch muscles and develops flexibility, but also is a time for meditation and stress relief.

8. Think you can. Mental preparation is key for helping push through when you hit the wall towards the end of a race. Learn to think positive and visualize success (especially completing a race) in the months leading up to the big event.

9. Develop a regimented sleep schedule. Sleep is necessary for stress relief, body repair, and for your general health and well-being. Be sure to get at least 8 hours every night. Tailor your sleeping patterns leading up to a race to match the hours you will be getting up for a race and going to bed before it. If you are suffering from insomnia it might be because you are running too much (or too close to bedtime). Change your routine so you run in the morning and avoid exercising 4 hours before your bedtime. During weekends or days off try to get naps too to speed up healing process.

10. Find a partner. Some people like running as a solitary endeavor, but most find the most success when running with a partner. You'll be able to push each other and support each other, particularly when the going gets tough. Don't expect to talk that much while running, if you are capable of talking when you should be breathing heavily then you really aren't pushing yourself that hard.

11. Taper leading up to the race. Don't push yourself harder than you ever have before or during a marathon. Instead, taper off how much running you do leading up to a race so your muscles have plenty of time to recover and are at full strength on marathon day. During the race remember that you might not finish the race due to exhaustion - it happens and its nothing to be ashamed of. You will do better next time.

12. Enjoy the experience. Don't get so caught up in how others are doing or get down on any lackluster runs to forget that running marathons is a truly enjoyable activity. During the marathon, take the time to take it all in—the scenery, the crowds, and especially your successes. Make memories that will last long after you cross the finish line.

Moderation in Dieting Vs Outright Banning Foods

I haven't given up chocolate.

But I have dramatically reduced my sugar intake by switching to dark chocolate. And what is better, dark chocolate cuts down on food cravings.

But sugary chocolate causes you to crave more, because the sugar causes a reaction in your brain which makes you want more.

Thus the first lesson to learn here is to stick to darker chocolates - the darker the better.

The second lesson is that you can apply this same principle to the rest of your eating habits by either moderating the foods you enjoy and/or banning foods you know are just plain harmful.

Example: Twinkies. They're mostly sugar and if you eat one the sugar-rush will cause you to crave more right away, resulting in a binge-fest of Twinkies. 150 calories each. If you buy and consume such sugary foods regularly you can pack on the pounds pretty quickly. So Twinkies are one of those things you should just plain give up entirely.

What to Give Up on Entirely

Fast food and soft drinks. If you count the calories and compare what you could have eaten for the equivalent amount of fast food you realize that you could have a lot more delicious / healthy food simply by cutting out the sugary treats. You will still eat out as fast food places maybe a couple times per year, but you will keep it to a very low moderation. Making healthier food at home gives you a lot of healthier alternatives such as baked potatoes or sweet potato fries, which saves you a tonne of fat calories and dramatically cuts back on sodium. Homemade hamburgers are way more delicious than their fast food counterparts.

Soft drinks can rack up calories very quickly - the simple act of switching to juice or milk or tea makes a big difference over the long term. A single soft drink has enough sugar for a small meal. Drinking 2 Litres of Coca-Cola or Pepsi in a single day is like drinking 6 small meals worth of sugar.

What to Eat in Moderation

Never try to deprive yourself of foods that you love. eg. Dark Chocolate is great if you love chocolate. Just avoid fudge, chocolate bars, white chocolate (there is no real chocolate in white chocolate, its basically all sugar).

Start thinking in terms of moderation and healthy alternatives. Instead of eating fried potato chips there are baked versions. There is also the option to bake chickpeas or make veggie chips to satisfy the salty cravings. Air popped popcorn is a whole grain, and without the butter and massive amounts of salt, is a low calorie and fast snack.

Bacon strips go great with your breakfast - but don't eat the whole 500 grams of it all at once! Save most of it for later!

Start Thinking Healthy Snacks

Apples, oranges, tangerines, bananas, berries... if you have a favourite fruit, veggie or berry start stocking up on those healthy foods you love. eg. I never get tired of carrot sticks.

Once you make the mental switch to healthy snacks you can still have your unhealthy choices once in awhile, but your goal is to make a mental switch in your brain to realize "Hey, I don't need those sugary snacks!"

Making vegetables an entree instead of a side dish is also a handy thing to do. Vegetables have no fat, lots of fiber and they are very filling. Eating whole grains, beans, low fat dairy and lean protein will be the sure way to guarantee a very full belly, without a trace of deprivation. You won't feel hungry because you won't be hungry.

Try also: Cooking more at home, making soups or stews, large hearty salads as a main dish, and cutting back on boxed, frozen and other processed food.

General Wellness - Mind, Body + Soul

If you exercise and eat well because of the health benefits (and longevity) its possible that you've also realized that health also includes mental health - and that mental health is often the most important thing you need to worry about.

Fitness is more than just sweating your buns off, pumping iron and trying to burn the most calories possible. You also need SLEEP and REST time to heal and build new muscle tissue.

Another thing you should do regularly is STRETCHES. There will be times when you are in so much pain for exercising that you won't even want to stretch, and you might be tempted to regularly skip stretching or exercise sessions because you are suffering from muscle pain/fatigue. That is normal. Its a sign that you've been pushing yourself too much.

When that happens it means you need to force yourself to do stretching or yoga instead of your regular exercises - and more importantly to rest and get plenty of sleep. You may even need to purchase muscle relaxers in the event that your muscle pain is so severe you are having difficulty sleeping.

Sore muscles become filled with lactic acid, the adrenal glands fatigue and the body produces more cortisol, a hormone that will store more fat, and make it harder to burn off. Too much intense exercising actually becomes quite counterproductive if you are overdoing it and making your muscles too sore. Over training can be a serious problem in exercise enthusiasts and can cause irritability, fatigue and the increased risk of injury. Take care of your body by introducing gentle exercise such as yoga, tai chi, Pilates or general stretching can help give your body a break and give it more time to build new muscle tissue.

Sports injuries are a sign that you are doing something wrong. When that happens it is important to make sure you are - not overdoing it, observing proper form on your exercises (sloppy form = more injuries), or trying to challenge yourself too much by doing things beyond your current talents.

It is true that "No Pain = No Gain" when it comes to weightlifting, but "Too Much Pain = You're Doing It Wrong" is also equally true.

Doing regular stretches and yoga, and basic exercises to build up your core strength, help to prevent sports injuries and should be a regular component in your fitness regimen.

Remember these three things!

MIND - Sleep, rest and meditation. Remember to take naps when you get the chance.

BODY - Stretching, yoga, low stress exercise days. eg. Going for a nature walk instead of weightlifing.

SOUL - Fun exercises / sports that give you peace of mind. eg. Archery, cycling, ice skating, swimming.

The simple act of walking or cycling on a nature trail is great exercise but also calming, refreshing and revitalizing - helping your mind and body on multiple levels. You have to think in terms of BALANCE so your body can maintain its equilibrium physically but mentally and emotionally too.

There is no point being buff on the outside if you are falling apart on the inside.

St Patricks Sale - 43% Off

Get 10 1-Hour Sessions with a Personal Trainer in Toronto for $200 - Offer valid until St Patricks Day (March 17th 2013).

Regular rate is $350 for 10 sessions.

Winter Weight Gain - What to do about it!

Okay so you've put on some weight during the Winter - especially around the Xmas Holidays.

But now it is February and its time to start thinking Spring - and Summer is mere months away!

Isn't it convenient how the holidays are right before New Years? Not really, because most people break their New Years Resolutions in the first 2 weeks - and a bunch of people will never even start! After indulging for a few days they eventually just forget about any resolutions they might have had... and then in March they start to panic when they realize the weather is getting warmer and they've gained 10 or 20 lbs during the winter and have done nothing to shed it.

If you are one of those people who gain weight every Winter and then - hopefully - lose it by Spring/Summer then I have a little advice for you - Start exercising now! Because the older you get the more difficult it will be keep up that routine. Yes, the idea of resolutions are quite motivating, but if you don't actually DO them whats the point?!

So its time to accelerate your weight weight loss - start thinking in terms of the following: Exercising 1 hour per day is only 4% of your day. And that is all it takes to make a huge difference in your waistline.

TIP #1. Increase time and/or intensity

If you have already been exercising, and your calorie intake has been greater than expenditure, then your usual workout routine will not speed up the weight loss process because you're eating too much junk and not exercising enough. You need to pick up the pace for a week or two.

Ways to do this? Keep the amount of workout time the same, but increase the amount of reps you do by taking less breaks between exercises. If you're lifting weights, decrease the weight but increase the reps a lot. eg. Lets say you are usually lifting 20 lb weights during your exercises and you do 30 reps at a time. Decrease the weight to 15 lbs, but lift 50 reps instead. Doing the math that is 20 x 30 = 600 Vs 15 x 50 = 750. That simple change increases the intensity by 25%. You won't build muscle as quickly, but you will burn fat faster by increasing the reps dramatically. (Weightlifting doesn't really work to burn fat that well unless its more like aerobics with weights added.)

Alternatively, if you have the extra time to exercise longer, then do so. Increase the amount of time you exercise by 25 to 50% longer than your normal workout and use that time to do more cardio / aerobic activities.

TIP #2. Change Your Workout

Many personal trainers (including myself) advise that surprising the body into sudden changes is something to be considered all year around. Sticking to the same routine every time you work out results in plateaus wherein you end up maintaining a specific weight and you aren't challenging yourself any more. If you want to see progressive results then you need to be constantly changing and progressing your workout to a higher level.

This works with sports too. Someone new to boxing won't be able to do 15 three-minute rounds - they just won't have the stamina for it. That is something for professional boxers only. Amateur boxing matches for teenagers start at 3 rounds, with 1.5 minutes per round... and depending on their age can go for up to 4 rounds at 2 minutes per round. (Amateur boxing has a lot of rules.)

TP #3. Detox Time!

Cut out smoking, alcohol, caffeine and anything containing toxins. At least until you achieve your weight loss goals.

Nutrition plays a big role in accelerating your weight loss and intaking toxins will only slow down your progress. Your body stores toxins in fat cells and then refuses to use those fat cells because your blood toxicity is too high - thus making "Stubborn Fat" that refuses to go away no matter how hard you exercise. The only way to get rid of it is to detoxify.

It is not simply a matter of avoiding sweets, rich cheese, crackers and big dinners, the weight will start to drop if you can watch your calories and remove your intake of toxins. Start by going on a "mini detox diet" wherein you stop eating junk food and avoid cigarettes/alcohol and caffeine for at least 5-7 days. If you can go longer than that, do it. The first three days will be the hardest if you are a cigarette smoker / alcoholic, but once you get over the three day hump you can do it.

To help you detoxify faster eat more green vegetables, as the alkaline in the greenery will help neutralize the toxic elements in your blood. Go lighter on carbohydrates too and aim for more protein (eggs, lean meat) in your dishes to make up for it. Drink plenty of water and green tea, and don't wait until you are starving to eat. Instead eat lots of healthy snacks as often as you can.

eg. I never get tired of carrot sticks. I am eating some right now.

TIP #4. Open the Window Drapes and Go Outside More

Vitamin D from the Sun kickstarts your metabolism, gives you more Happy hormones and causes your body to stop storing so much fat. The simple act of opening the window drapes really wide so you get more sunlight on your skin helps you to lose weight. Going outside and getting more sun helps even more.

You can also get more Vitamin D by eating various foods like fish, eggs and mushrooms - or take Vitamin D supplements. See my post Vitamin D, Essential for your Winter Diet.

TIP #5. Take Up a Winter Sport

Get ice skating lessons in Toronto, take up snowshoeing, snowboarding, cross-country or downhill skiing, go tobaggoning with friends, go jogging on any day that it isn't snowing, do volunteer work, shovel snow from your driveway AND your neighbours driveways - basically do anything that gets you outside and exercising so you get both more exercise and more Vitamin D in your system.

TIP #6. Get a Part Time Job that gets you Exercising Outside

Nothing is more motivating than getting paid to exercise. It might be simple like holding a sign and directing traffic around construction workers on the roads, or you might be painting houses or moving furniture. Either way if it gets you outside more often and gets you working hard you will see the benefits both in weight loss and muscle growth.

TIP #7. Go for Walks with your Camera

Snow is beautiful. So is ice. Take your digital or old manual camera and go for a walk. You can make art and get exercise at the same time.

TIP #8. Become an Ice Sculptor

Another way to get exercise in the winter (and make art) is to make ice sculptures. It doesn't have to be fancy or professional. It might be a funny looking snowman or Lady Godiva on horseback... it doesn't matter so long as you have fun doing it.

TIP #9. Hire a personal trainer!

Seriously. If you live in Toronto and you have $30 you can spend on a personal trainer once per month, hire one so you can an once per month session which will help keep you focused, exercising and motivated. Think of it like a monthly checkup and in 3 months you will be seeing results from the extra advice and motivation.

TIP #10. Get your Bicycle out of the Snowbank ...

And clean it! No time like the present. Get it cleaned up and ready for Spring so the first warm day you can go cycling ASAP. You can even take it to your local Toronto bicycle mechanic and they will clean it, repair it and store it for the rest of the winter until you are ready for it again.

How to Build Your Own Rowing Machine

Guest Post by Harry.

For approx. $100 and few hours of time, you can build a wooden rowing machine to help strengthen your leg and arm muscles without significantly denting your pocketbook.

The rowing machine might not be the most popular or expensive exercise device out there - but it is effective as it exercises the upper body, the lower body, back muscles and the abdominals. Plus its pretty frugal. Building your own rowing machine will give you a chance to customize the look and feel of the equipment - and the bragging rights when people visit and say "Hey, what is that?!"

Plus rowing causes very little stress on the joints, so its safe to use even if you're elderly and have difficulty with your joints / arthritis.

You could go out and purchase a really nice rowing machine for $800, and it will come with a computer that counts reps / estimates speed / etc... but really, for the extra $$$ you can count reps in your head or just use the clock on the wall to track the time you've spent rowing.

You will need the following...

  • Two hook bolts
  • Two hook screws
  • Ten screw eyes
  • Four spring washers M12
  • Eight washers M12
  • Eight hexagon nuts M12
  • Threaded rod M12
  • A bunch of screws
  • One carabiner
  • Two cable clamps
  • Ten small wheels 3 cm in diameter
  • Two small wheels 4 cm in diameter
  • Wooden beams ( 4 cm x 4 cm ) approximately  10 meter total usage
  • Wooden stick 2.5 cm in diameter and approximately 60 cm long
  • Wooden board approximately 88 cm x 30 cm x 2.7 cm
  • MDF boards approximately 99 cm x 33 cm x 1.1 cm
  • Two long pieces of aluminum (140 cm x 4 cm x 3 mm)
  • Elastic straps
  • Four pulleys
  • Two bearings: outer diameter 32 mm, inner diameter 12 mm
  • Rope 2 meter, 10 mm in diameter
  • Wood glue
  • Wood wax
  • Wood paste
  • Jig saw
  • Screw driver
  • Sand paper
  • Wood clamps
  • Wood file
  • Drill
  • Drill bit  6 mm, 12 mm, 15 mm, 32 mm

Step 1 - Building the Wooden Base

Saw six pieces of 30 cm from the wooden beam. Measure a 45° angle on each piece and saw them off.
Saw six pieces of 10 cm from the wooden beam,  two pieces of 18 cm, three pieces of 40 cm, two pieces of 42 cm, two pieces of 19 cm and two pieces of 73 cm. Finally saw two lengths of 170 cm.
Saw rectangles (4 cm x 4 cm x 2 cm) out of the ends of the 170 cm lengths and the 40 cm pieces. Glue the sawed ends of the 170 cm lengths and the 40 cm pieces together in a right-angle.  Screw two pieces of 30 cm (the ones with the 45° angle sawed off) in the right-angled corners. 
On the other end of the 170 cm beams you measure 3 cm from the top and drill a 15 mm hole. On top of that hole drill a 1 cm deep hole 32 mm in diameter.
Glue a 10 cm piece between the finished right angled pieces, starting from the corner. Than glue two pieces of 10 cm at 25 cm and glue the last one at 83 cm.  
Take the last 40 cm piece, measure 11 cm from the sides from these marks draw two 4 cm by 4 cm rectangles and saw them out 2 cm deep. 
Screw the 42 cm pieces to the 73 cm pieces and drill a 12 mm hole throughout both pieces at height 20 cm.
Screw the long ends (at 120 cm) “of the so far finished base” on top of the 42 cm pieces. 
Screw a 18 cm piece on top of the long ends - between the 73 cm pieces.
Screw a 18 cm piece between the tops of the 73 cm pieces.
Screw two 19 cm pieces vertical between the two 18 cm pieces leaving a 2 cm space between them.
Screw four pieces of 30 cm (the ones with the 45° angle sawed off) in the right-angled corners on the base. 
Fill the screw holes with wood paste and sand them smooth.
The base is finished.

Step 2 - The Wooden Pulley

Draw (on the MDF board) two circles 32 cm in diameter and one circle 30 cm in diameter and jig-saw them out. Glue them together leaving the smaller one of 30 cm in the middle. Drill a 12 mm  hole in the middle of the circle. Bolt the created wheel on the drilled holes on the back of the base. (Note, you can get pre cut MDF boards.)
Put the bearings on in the drilled 32 mm holes. Use spring washers, washers, hexagon nuts and a threaded rod to connect the wooden pulley to the base. 

Step 3 - The Wooden Rolling Seat

Saw 30 cm by 30 cm of the wooden board. 
Saw two 30 cm by 8 cm pieces of the wooden board.  These will be the sides. Screw them onto the 30 cm by 30 cm piece.
Screw two rows of tree wheels on the bottom and two wheels on each side. Spread the wheels evenly.
Fill the screw holes with wood paste and sand them smooth.
Screw two pieces of aluminum 4 cm by 140 cm on top of the base.

Step 4 - The Feet Supports

Saw two 26 cm by 12 cm pieces of the wooden board
Saw two 12 cm by 6 cm pieces of the wooden board
Screw the small boards right angled on (the end of) the bigger boards.
Take the two leftover 10 cm pieces from step 1. Drill a 12 mm hole throughout the top of each piece. Screw them in the center of each 26 cm by 12 cm piece.
Bolt the feet supports on the drilled 12 mm holes on the base. Use spring washers, washers, hexagon nuts and threaded rods to connect the feet supports to the base.   
Fill the screw holes with wood paste and sand them smooth.

Step 5 - The Pulling / Resistance Mechanism

Fix two hook screws underneath the base (see picture). 
Screw four pulleys underneath the base on to the two 10 cm pieces.
Saw two pieces of the wooden stick: one 14 cm long and the other 12 cm long. Drill six holes in the long one and five holes in the short one, using the 6 mm drill bit. Spread the holes evenly. On the long piece bolt four screw eyes on the inner side and two hook bolts on the outside facing the opposite direction. On the short piece bolt five screw eyes with the middle one facing the opposite direction.
The elastic straps I used are 85 cm long.  Attach them to the screw eyes of the 14 cm long stick. Cut the hooks on the other end of the elastic straps off and pull them through the pulleys. Now reattach the hooks and fix them to the screw eyes of the 12 cm long stick.  
To make the handle saw a 30 cm piece of the wooden stick. Drill a 6 mm hole in the middle and bolt a screw eye on. Attach a carabiner to the screw eye. Put a rope through the carabiner and fasten it with a cable clamp. 
Guide the rope over the wooden pulley and underneath the base. Attach the rope to the remaining screw eye and fasten with a cable clamp.

Step 6 - The Wheels

Saw a cube of 4 cm by 4 cm, next saw this cube diagonally. Screw these pieces on the 73 cm  beams facing the wooden wheel and 2 cm off the ground. Next screw a wheel on each block.

Step 7 - Wax!

Wax all the wood with wood wax to give it a nice smooth surface. Pay extra attention to the seat and handle - for extra comfort get bicycle handle grips and slide them onto the handle.

Step 8 - Exercise!

One of the most common mistakes is to bend the lower back when going forward and backwards. Try to keep your back straight. Follow these steps if you do the exercise:
  1. Lean slightly forward with your arms straight and rounded legs
  2. Start to straighten your legs, lean a little backward and pull your arms.
  3. Stop when your legs are straight and your arms are bend while you hold the handle to your abdomen.
  4. Stretch your arms again, bend forward and bend your knees to go back.
  5. Start over!
Adjusting the Resistance

To adjust the resistance on the rowing machine, you can hook/unhook elastic straps. Many beginners make the resistance as high as possible in order to burn more calories, but then you will sooner suffer from pain in your back and aching muscles. The resistance is good if you can finish your session without feeling completely exhausted. You get a good cardio workout and develop your muscular strength and endurance.

12 Valentines Resolutions

If January and half of February came and went and you just spent Valentines alone again... maybe it is time you finally did something about it?

If you are reading this fresh it is now February 15th - the day after Valentines. Yep, it is that time of year again.

Maybe you had big hopes and dreams for a romantic evening for Valentines, but it just didn't happen.

Why? Well maybe you are too much of a dreamer - when you should be a doer.

People make New Years Resolutions every year, but I think people should make resolutions for everything. Birthday resolutions. Valentines resolutions. Summer resolutions. Whatever label you want to stick on it. In this case your romantic dreams got shattered because of your inability to attract a suitable mate. Well I am going to try and help you to change that in the following list of 12 tips / resolutions for both losing weight AND attracting a mate. Two lovebirds with one stone!

#1. Take up a hobby / sport that burns both calories and is popular for both sexes. eg. Jogging is equally enjoyed by both men and women. If jogging bothers your knees / joints, try walking daily instead.

#2. Get a gym membership or yoga membership. True, not as many men do yoga, so if you're a lady looking to pick up men at the yoga studio then you will find them in short supply - but hey, you never know!

#3. Research your ideal mate - If you're only interested in dating intelligent men who work with computers (IT men) then you need to look for sports that men of that type would enjoy. Tip: Lots of IT people at the archery range.

#4. Research your exercise goals - Take a trip to the library and start reading up on various exercises to see which ones you would enjoy the most and get the most benefits from. eg. If your goal is to lose weight then weightlifting isn't going to help you (it will just cause you to bulk up on muscle instead). So if you're the type of person who would never get bored of rowing, then get yourself a rowing machine. You can even BUILD your own rowing machine if you have the time and energy.

#5. Clean yourself and your apartment! Seriously, cleaning burns a lot of calories - and nothing attracts a mate more than a really clean apartment - and a clean body. If you are living in a hovel full of refuse, there is something wrong and you need to start by throwing out anything that is garbage (keep anything that can be used for exercising, but make a special bin / box / basket for all your exercise stuff). If you clean up your apartment and then clean up yourself you will feel more healthy and motivated. Having lots of junk laying about messes with your mind and you don't know what to do first because you become paralyzed with doubt.

#6. Eat healthy and change your lifestyle. It only takes 21 days to change your habits. If you eat healthy for 21 days then you can break your habit and get into a new healthier habit. Now it is true, if you break the habit and start a new unhealthy habit for 21 days, you are just going back to the old problem. But you can fix it if you just get right back on the horse and keep trying. Don't be afraid to fall off the proverbial horse. It happens. Just get right back on and keep going until your healthy habits become a new healthy lifestyle. (And people like it when their prospective lovers eat healthy and take good care of themselves.)

#7. Meditate - Having peace of mind and more mental self control can help you to reduce food cravings and stay focused with your new healthy lifestyle. Meditation also reduces stress (and stress hormones causes your body to store more fat) so meditation actually helps you LOSE fat. All that just from thinking quietly.

#8. Focus on doing happy energetic things - the happier you are the more energetic you feel, the more good hormones your brain pumps into your blood, the more happier you feel, the more energetic you feel. Even if the initial happiness was fake and you tricked your brain into feeling happy, the result will still be the same. You begin to be genuinely happy as the cycle self-perpetuates. Exercising causes your body to pump "happy" hormones into your blood to act as painkillers, which in turn make you feel happier - and boosts your endurance levels. Doing fun activities such as sports dramatically improves your smile muscles - and a good smile helps attract a mate.

#9. Brush your teeth and use mouthwash - Healthy teeth = a healthier outlook on life... and it doesn't hurt to have nice teeth when trying to attract a mate.

#10. Wear tighter fitting clothing. Baggy clothing just make you look bigger and fatter - and takes away any muscular physique you might have. You want to show off what you have by wearing tight fitting (or relatively tight) clothing so that other below can enjoy your curves (muscular curves or not).

#11. Set up a home gym. It doesn't take much, a few dumbbells, a skip rope, a stretchy band, and a list of your favourite exercises. Check out other pages on to see a long list of frugal exercises you can do. Having the option to do extra exercises whenever you want at home means you can burn fat faster whenever bored, while watching TV, or even while making breakfast.

#12. Exercise with family members or friends - Maybe you have a cousin or a coworker you can go jogging with every day after work? Or you could hire a personal trainer in Toronto. Whatever works for you, if you exercise with a friend, family member, coworker or personal trainer you will push yourself further than you normally would and it will help you to stay motivated. If you convince family members to join you for cycling trips, volleyball at the beach, baseball at the park or other activities you will all benefit from the healthy activity. - And if you're with a group of people you're more likely to accidentally meet new people.

Right now I am offering a Valentines to St Patricks Day promotion - Hire me as a personal trainer and get 25% off my regular rates until Sunday March 17th 2013. Offer only available in Downtown Toronto.

How to get a Thigh Gap

Now you might first be wondering - "What is a thigh gap???"

Basically it is a term commonly used by fashion-conscious young women to describe legs so skinny that the thighs don't touch when your knees are together.

It is therefore a standard of beauty to which very few women in North America fulfill - Not even Marilyn Monroe had legs that skinny.

It is the kind of legs you would typically see on a teenager or a woman in her 20s who does a lot of jogging, cycling or possibly ballet dancing.

So if you're looking for tips on how to achieve your own personal "thigh gap" then there are three very goods tips for you - running, jogging, cycling and/or dancing - basically any kind of cardio is good for you.

But lets not stop with cardio exercises. What other things could you do to help you get those skinny legs? And do it a healthy way using exercise and diet!

#1. Start limiting your intake of fatty dairy. Avoid cheese, cream, ice cream and anything more than 1% milk. Aim instead for skim milk.

#2. Avoid foods with high sugar or high carbs. Aim for breads with whole grains or multi-grains. Avoid white rice too, aim for brown rice instead.

#3. Eat your veggies and lots of them! Berries, nuts, fruits are good too. Avoid avocados however, they're very fattening.

#4. One way of measuring your legs - Stretch your leg along the floor and pinch the top of your thigh. If you can pinch a lot, it’s more fat; if you can barely get a grip, it is more muscle. Chances are much more its fat so you goal will be fat burning via diet and exercise. If its all muscle than you must be a freaking bodybuilder to have Popeye legs - in which case you won't really be able to do much and in theory would want to avoid exercising your legs if you really want a Thigh Gap.

#5. Daily stretches for your legs! Stretching (including yoga and pilates) helps elongates the muscles and gives you taller looking legs.

#6. Do jumping jacks in the pool/water - the light resistance of the water plus the cardio will help you build lean muscle.

#7. Don’t starve yourself because that will just result in yo-yo dieting - which will lead to loose skin and flabby thighs - Don't over-exercise either. Instead try to eat something small every two hours to keep your metabolism level. Eat moderate amounts of protein but stick mostly to fruits and vegetables.

#8. In addition to basic strength-building / stretching exercises you need to be doing cardio every day. Jogging and running is best, but you can also just walk, cycle, swim or even engage in more fun activities like volleyball, rollerblading or boxing.

#9. You can eat a big meal once in awhile because it helps with metabolism plateaus and makes your metabolism speed up!

#10. Do a lot of jump squats, squats, plie squats, lunges, reverse lunges. For extra challenge use 5 lbs dumbbells in each hand. Walk every day, and jog or bicycle 20 minutes at least twice a week. Do yoga or stretches at least once a week for an hour to stretch and relax muscles.

#11. Aim to eat 5 small and super healthy meals per day. Or if you can't 3 medium meals and 2 snacks in the late morning and mid-afternoon. Remember to take your vitamins and drink LOTS of water too. If bored of water try broths, teas, and pure fruit/veggie juices, and drinking protein shakes if you feel weak/tired.

#12. Dancing in the privacy of your home works really well for some people. The music can get you really fired up to do jumping jacks, abs and squats too. There are plenty of dance videos on YouTube.

#13. Stop drinking regular sodas, coffee with add ins, or any drink with calories and lots of sugar. Liquid calories are a huge factor in weight gain and if you cut them out, you will see results! If you must have caffeine for work in the morning, then only drink in the morning. No more caffeine after 2 PM.

#14. Get LOTS of sleep. Aim to be in bed reading a boring book by 10 PM and awake by 7 AM. On weekends try to get naps. Extra sleep helps recharge your body and speed up metabolism.

#15. Ignore anyone who claims Spot Training works. It does NOT work. (Spot training is the idea that if you exercise one muscle or set of muscles that you will lose fat in that one region. It doesn't work that way. If you want to lose fat, then you lose fat everywhere.)

#16. Stay hydrated - Drinking lots of water is very important. If you start to get a headache, drink water. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and anything that will dehydrate you. Toxins from smoking are also bad because fat cells store toxins and your brain won't burn fat cells with a high toxicity, so you need to detoxify your body by drinking lots of water and avoiding toxins.

#17. If you lose weight quickly, you can get saggy loose skin on your legs, stomach, under arms and thighs - which will look really awful. To avoid this aim to lose weight slowly - about 2 lbs or less per week, and use a moisturizing lotion (Aveeno works great) and lather it on your problem areas as much as you possibly can to help moisturize and improve the elasticity of your skin so it tightens up faster as you lose weight. See more of my tips on how to avoid loose skin.

#18. Don't give up if you don't see improvements right away. Instead what you need to do is set yourself a long term goal - like 25 lbs in 25 weeks. Then get yourself a scale and check your weight once per week, on a specific day and time such as Saturday morning after your shower. Don't bother checking every day because your weight will fluctuate a lot daily from eating, drinking, urination, etc.

#19. Stay motivated. Keep coming back to for more advice on a regular basis. Better yet subscribe by email and get updates whenever new posts go up.

#20. Hire a personal trainer to help you stay motivated. If you live in Toronto you can hire me.

BOSU Exercises - Take it up a notch?

If you have a gym membership or happen to own a BOSU, then it is often cited as a great way to challenge yourself, take it up a notch and test your limits.

BOSU stands for "both sides utilized". It can be placed either flat side or ball side down and can be used for various balance, core, strength and cardio exercises. There are some neat ways for you to get the most out of your BOSU...

#1. Use the BOSU flat side down (for extra challenge switch to ball side down) to take basic exercises up a level by adding the challenge of balance to them. Standing on the BOSU try the following exercises: Shoulder press, bicep curls, overhead extension, squats and lunges with one leg on the ball and one leg off.

#2. With the ball side down use the handles to do push ups. Or place the BOSU flat side down, and place your feet on the ball for push ups. This targets the upper pectorals more, while simultaneously engaging the core.

#3. Using both a stability ball and BOSU try a bench press bridge. Use the stability ball like a bench for your press, but place feet on the BOSU, and raise the hips up high into a bridge. This targets the core, buns, hamstrings, chest, triceps and shoulders all in one exercise!

#4. Try using the BOSU flat side down to perform aerobic step exercises (variations of step ups with weights) but now you have to balance, and the surface is even smaller!

#5. Try uneven traveling squats. To do this one, place the BOSU flat down. Perform a squat with one foot on the BOSU on the other off. Then step or jump over the BOSU to do the other side. Repeat this exercise for 15 squats on each side. It is harder than it looks!

The good thing about BOSU is that they are relatively cheap and take up very little space under your bed, in your closet, etc.

For more of a challenge you could also use a stability ball, or even a basketball or football for doing various exercises. eg. Doing push-ups on a football.

Looking to sign up for archery lessons, boxing lessons, swimming lessons, ice skating lessons or personal training sessions? Start by emailing and lets talk fitness!


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