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Showing posts with label Vacation Exercises. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vacation Exercises. Show all posts

10 Things to do on a Mental Health Day

I don't usually talk about mental health on Cardio Trek, but I am going to do so today because I have decided to take a Mental Health Day. Think of it like a mini vacation. A day off to do something you enjoy that doesn't stress you out.

So with that in mind let's go through some of  my favourite activities to do on a Mental Health Day, and keeping in mind that I like to exercise so there will be a theme to this.

#1. Archery

I love archery. I find it very relaxing, despite it being a sport/exercise. I never get bored doing archery. I get tired and/or hungry and eventually have to leave the archery range because I need food, sleep, ice cream, a shower, etc. Creature comforts. But I am never bored while doing archery or socializing with my fellow archers (most archers are fairly social and talkative).

#2. Go to the Beach and Swim

If it is remotely warm outside (and not raining) then it is probably a good day to go to the beach and swim, walk along the beach, jog in the surf, etc. Take the dog with you. Take the kids. Have a fun time. Bring cold drinks and/or stop for ice cream.

#3. Make Ice Cream!

As you may have guessed I do like my ice cream, and while most ice cream certainly is not the healthiest you can also make low sugar / low fat alternatives that still taste amazing.

You can very easily make your own strawberry ice cream (not real ice cream, but the texture will be roughly the same) by mixing the following in a blender:

  • 10 ozs frozen strawberries
  • 4 ozs Greek yogurt 
  • 1 tsp honey or maple syrup
  • 4 fresh strawberries

Easy peasy strawberry squeezy! Afterwards you have a healthy snack you can take with you for a walk, to the beach, to the archery range, etc.

#4. Go for a Walk / Hike / Birdwatching

Where you go doesn't really matter. Walking trails. Abandoned railway tracks. The beach. I recommend taking a camera with you, or if you are into birdwatching (aka birding) then bringing a bird book with you is also a good idea. Even if you are not into birding then now is a good time to start getting interested in it. There are even apps on the subject if you don't own any birding books. (I am not going to recommend a particular app, but feel free to browse.)

#5. Shopping / Window Shopping

I love window shopping almost as much as I like actually buying things. Sometimes it is fun just to browse and look. Even for things you know you cannot afford, like when you walk into a Lamborghini dealership just to have a look. You aren't going to buy a Lamborghini, but it is still fun to walk around them, sit in them and talk to the sales staff (try not to waste their time however unless they look bored due to a lack of customers).

Shopping often deals with a significant amount of walking, and possibly carrying anything that you purchased, so there is oddly an exercise component and it can be quite exhausting by the time you get home with your new purchases.

One of my personal favourites is to go to bookstores and browse (and maybe buy a book). I don't need to buy any books to have fun and relax while shopping for books, but I certainly buy a lot of books judging by my shelves. I also like garage sales and used book stores because you never know what you are going to find. In Toronto check out the store "Re: Reading" on the Danforth. 

Another one I really like is furniture shopping. Mostly because you get to sit on the furniture and it is therefore relaxing, but there is still a goodly amount of walking involved. Plus maybe you finally replace that sofa you've been meaning to throw out, so that could be a win-win.

#6. Ice Skating

In the winter it is a great time to go ice skating, and in a city like Toronto there are many free outdoor ice rinks to choose from. The one in front of Toronto City Hall for example offers skate rentals and lockers so that you can enjoy the activity even if you don't own skates you can still do it. Plus you don't need to be good at ice skating to have fun doing it. It is still fun regardless even if you are horrible at it.

#7. Rollerblading / Roller Skating

Other times of the year you can still skate, but the method is different. It might involve going to a roller rink and renting roller skates or rollerblades, but just like ice skating this is something you can have fun doing even if you are horrible at it.

For best results take a friend or family member with you!

#8. Go Fishing

Not for everyone, but regardless of whether you don't catch anything, catch-and-release, or eat what you catch you will still have a relaxing time.

#9. Antiquing

Similar to shopping, antiquing is when you go to many different antiques stores and browse. Antique store owners are used to people browsing and not buying anything so what you're doing isn't really that unusual.

#10. What is your favourite hobby?

Chances are you have a favourite hobby. Why not spend the day doing it? Just relax and do that one hobby that makes you really happy. As long as the hobby isn't harming you or anyone else, and isn't stressful, then it should be a good way to relax.

Happy Mental Healthy Day!

Yoga and Zen Vacations

Yoga retreats are a booming global industry, primarily for women and women's retreats, but there is a small but growing percentage of men who are visiting yoga retreats too.

The principle is simple - you go on vacation to some exotic locale, stay there and do yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and other activities (eg. some of these retreats even offer archery lessons).

Many of these retreats work on a 3-day or 7-day programme and offer a series of workshops on yoga, meditation - as well as services like massage, therapeutic discussions, etc.

The idea essentially is for people to go there, relax, do yoga, and then come back from their vacation feeling refreshed and re-energized.

There is only one problem.

These retreats are often ridiculously over priced and geared towards getting people to come back again and again because it is addictive. So be forewarned, if you get into visiting yoga retreats regularly you will discover they are very expensive and you will find yourself going back again and again. I have a friend who goes to a yoga retreat in Romania every year, spending $5,000 to $6,000 every year on the 2-week trip (she even borrows money from people just so she can go, even though she knows she should be spending her money more wisely). For just a portion of that she could get a membership at a local yoga studio in Toronto and go there all year long instead of 2 weeks per year.

From my perspective yoga is something that shouldn't even cost money. People do yoga in the park. Toronto has a Free Yoga Meetup group that organizes free events at Toronto parks for people who are into yoga. So it doesn't have to cost a cent, and you get to meet new people, make friends, and explore Toronto. Win-Win-Win.

There is actually multiple meetup groups for Yoga in Toronto/GTA.

North York Free Yoga

Plus Size Yoga Toronto

Etobicoke Yoga Grove

Markham Yoga

Beach Yoga Toronto

So there really is no shortage of Yoga Clubs in Toronto that people can join. No reason to go overseas or spend $1000s just to have a good time and feel good about yourself.

The Benefits of Fresh Air

Lack of fresh air in the human body leads to the following symptoms:
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Dullness of mind
  • Irritability
The simple act of getting up and going outside therefore can do wonders to rejuvenate and motivate your body to keep going outside more regularly.

If a person stays indoors too often they will also get more of the harmful effects of tobacco smoke, city smog, re-circulating air in buildings, improper ventilation, exhaust, and many other pollutants.

Now you may think, wait, city smog indoors? Yes. In fact smog particles collect indoors whereas outside they are blown away on the wind and eventually filtered by rain, air moisture, etc. So since it doesn't rain indoors the quality of air suffers as the smog particles collect. (Which brings up a healthy reason to buy an air purifier.) In cities like Toronto where we have very good air quality the smog isn't such a big issue, but that doesn't mean you won't see huge physical and mental benefits from going outside more often.

However going outside regularly gives you many positive side effects:
  • Reduces depression
  • Promotes healing
  • Sparks creativity
  • Acts as a painkiller
  • Reduces fat by introducing more Vitamin D into the body
  • Boosts brain power (more oxygen to the brain)
  • Less Fevers
  • Less Colds
  • Less Lung disease
A lot of this is because the air outside has a higher concentration of oxygen in it. You could try and fix this by having more plants inside your home, to give you a higher oxygen level, but the quick and easy solution is to simply go outside more often and breathe deeply as you go for a walk, jogging, walk the dog, nature hike, bicycle ride, etc.

Fresh air due to its higher oxygen levels helps with many things.
  • Fresh air purifies the blood more.
  • Fresh air soothes the nerves, stimulates appetite, helps digestion, and induces more refreshing sleep.
  • Fresh air invigorates the vital organs and aids the body's defense system in getting rid of an accumulation of impurities and toxins.
  • Fresh air brings life to your skin, and a healthy tan doesn't hurt either.
  • Fresh air influences your mind, imparting a degree of composure and serenity while simultaneously acting as a natural painkiller.
  • Fresh air, especially when we exercise outdoors, will stimulate our appetite, and greatly aid and improve digestion of food.
  • Exercises performed outdoors in fresh air offer increased aerobic benefits. Taking in more clean air helps improves your breathing technique. Better technique increases stamina. More oxygen to the muscles reduces the lactic acid build-up in the muscles which leads to cramping and pain.
  • Oxygen electrifies the whole system, causes the body to be strong and healthy, and will refresh the system.
  • Oxygen has negative ions that are useful in giving electrical energy to the body, especially the nervous system. This will give us a sense of well-being, serenity, and composure.
  • Oxygen kills bacteria as it strengthens your immune system. When the white blood cells are called upon by the immune system to destroy germs, bacteria and viruses, they need much more oxygen than normal.

More oxygen to your brain, more oxygen to your muscles, more oxygen to all your vital organs, more oxygen to your skin, your blood, everything. Everything benefits from fresh air and boosts your health dramatically.

8 Ways to Lose Weight using Photography

#1. Take your heaviest camera.

Whenever you go for a walk take the biggest / heaviest camera one you own. Take your camera and go for an hour long walk at least twice per week.

If a 160 lb person walks 5 km in 60 minutes while carrying a camera they will burn approx. 300 calories.

Depending on how much you weigh and how far you walk you could burn a lot more. The same person walking 7 km in 60 minutes will burn approx. 460 calories because they were practically jogging in order to cover the extra distance in the same amount of time.

For added weight take your tripod and any other equipment you fancy with you. Even if you don't use it you are burning extra calories by carrying the extra weight with you.

#2. Take a backpack with water with you.

Three reasons. A. Because you can drink the water. B. Because the water and backpack provides extra weight for you to carry, which means you burn more calories. C. Because when bored you can take a photograph of your water bottle for fun in different locations.

Below: Still Life of Water Bottle #32 ; Still Life of Water Bottle #45.

#3. When on vacation explore as much as you can.

The more distance you travel, the more interesting photographs you get, the more calories you burn, the more fun you have. Easy!

#4. Take long walks along the beach.

The further the better. And the more distance you cover the more photographs you will get. And who would ever get bored of walking along the beach???

#5. Take photos of yourself in reflections while walking.

Sort of like before and after photos, but these will be photos along the way. If you look to photograph yourself in your reflection every time you go for a long walk - and you walk at least twice per week, then in a year you will have over 104 photos of yourself - and you will have burned approx 9 lbs of fat without even trying. It is possible you've burned way more than that due to increased physical activity and heightened metabolism. But what will be interesting is that you will have a photographic record of your gradual weight loss. And that is a happy thing by itself.

#6. Take your umbrella when it is raining.

Don't let rain stop you from taking your walks and taking photographs in the rain. Get a nice sturdy umbrella, the heavier the better because that burns more calories, and use that while doing photography in the rain. The rain will provide you with lots of things to photograph.

#7. Use other modes of transportation.

Cycling, canoeing, kayaking, snowshoeing in the winter. There are lots of other ways to exercise and take your camera with you. No shortage of stuff to do and things to photograph.

#8. Don't be afraid to experiment.

I am not talking about just exercise wise or photography wise. I mean experiment with both. Try new things. Take up new sports and take your camera with you during that new sport. (If you take up scuba diving get yourself a waterproof camera designed for shooting underwater.)


Going for walks and taking your digital camera with you is a very frugal way to get exercise. You can do it as an hobby, while on vacation, while with friends, while visiting relatives. No excuses not to do it.

Just take your camera and go!

15 Faster and More Effective Exercises

Are you looking for some highly effective exercises you can do while on vacation, as part of your morning exercise routine or just because they're frugal? Here are 15 exercises that don't require much equipment, take very little time but are highly effective because they take more energy to do.

Medicine Ball Wood Chop

Instead of doing a warm up that targets only legs, the wood chop targets the upper body and core as well. If you don't have a medicine ball you can use a football, basketball or even a heavy book instead.

Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and hold onto a light-to-medium medicine ball (five to six pounds). Bend knees and hips, dropping into a squat as you bring the ball down to touch your left foot, shin or knee, depending on your level of flexibility. Rise up out of the squat as you simultaneously rotate and raise the ball up and across your right side, as if throwing it over your right shoulder. Do two sets of 10 on alternating sides.

Jump Squats

"Jump Training" activates fast-twitch muscle fibers, which we lose over time. This explosive move is also very cardiovascular and, therefore, burns more calories than normal squats.

Stand with feet hip-width apart; lower your butt towards the ground until your heels start to lift off the floor -- keep your back flat and eyes straight ahead. Pause briefly and then jump up quickly, fully extending your legs. Land softly on your mid-foot and roll back towards your heels. Start with 10 to 15 jumps.

Step-Ups Plus Another Move

Adding an upper body move or a second leg exercise to a step-up increases the challenge. Choose one of these:

Add a shoulder press. Hold onto dumbbells (five to eight pounds) and perform the step-up. At the top of the movement press the dumbbells overhead before stepping back down. Repeat.

Add a glute-toner. Perform the step-up and kick back the second leg before stepping back down. The kick activates the glutes and the core because it requires stability.

Alternating Front and Back Lunges

Using both legs makes the move more functional; it mimics how you move in everyday.

Hold a pair of dumbbells at arm's length next to your sides, palms facing in. Step forward with your right leg and slowly lower your body until your front knee bends to 90 degrees. Pause, rise up and step back to return to starting position. (Note: Keep your back straight and avoid leaning forward with each step.) Repeat with left leg. Alternate legs for 15 reps.

Fitness-Ball Leg Curl

Add a dynamic component to your hamstring workout by swapping the leg curl machine for a fitness ball.

Lie on your back with legs extended, lower leg on an exercise ball. Extend arms out to sides. Raise your hips up off the ground by pressing down on the ball with your lower legs and heels until your body forms a straight line: shoulders, hips and ankles should line up. Roll the ball towards you by bending your knees; pull your heels toward your butt. Allow your feet to roll up on to ball. Slowly lower to original position by straightening knees; repeat 12 to 15 times.

Seated Calf Raises

Standing raises only work the outer calf muscles. The seated version works the flexor muscle group deep in the calf, which stabilizes the ankle (better for walking in high heels!) and helps prevent ankle sprains.

Sit on a chair or bench with toes rested on a step or ledge in front of you -- heels should be on the ground and the step should be high enough for you to feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Place dumbbells or a barbell across your thighs near the knees added resistance. Hold the weights in place with your hands as you raise your heel off the ground, squeezing your calf muscles. Pause and slowly lower heels back down until you feel a stretch. Repeat 12 to 15 times.

Core Pushups

Adding instability activates the core and oblique muscles.

As you do each pushup, bring one knee up to the opposite elbow between each rep. Or, use a fitness ball as another core-activating alternative: Kneel in front of a fitness ball, drape yourself over the ball and walk out on your hands until the ball is under your shins and your body is straight -- do not let your back sag. Lower your upper body towards the floor into a pushup by bending your elbows out towards the sides, then pause and push back up. Repeat 12 to 15 times.

Incline/Decline Bench Presses

The chest muscle has a fan-like appearance so, although you can't completely isolate one area, changing the angle of the weight bench shifts the emphasis on the muscle.

Increase the incline to emphasize the shoulders and upper part of the chest. Perform chest presses on a decline bench (head lower than your feet) to put emphasis on the lower part of the chest. (Note: Decline presses are not recommended for women with high blood pressure, as this increases blood pressure in the brain.)

Seated Rows

Seated rows - on a machine or with tubing anchored into a door hinge - works the entire back and is better for shoulder and spine function.

Sit with your back straight and knees slightly bent and extend your arms in front of you, gripping the handle of the device or tubing, which should be parallel to the floor. Pull the handle towards you by driving elbows back and squeezing your shoulder blades together (avoid shrugging) until the handles touch your abdomen. Pause and repeat 12 to 15 times.

Hammer Curls

Neutral wrists in the hammer curl places more emphasis on that nice muscle that runs along the outside of the upper arms - giving shape to your arms.

Do them like regular bicep curls but don't rotate your wrists. Start with arms down to your sides, palms facing in towards your body. Keeping hands in this position, bend your elbows as you bring your hands up towards your shoulders, keep thumbs facing up; repeat 12 to 15 times.

Overhead Tricep Extensions

Mechanically, kickbacks are not a very effective exercise, as it does not hit all parts of the triceps. A better, more effective way to work the triceps, involves an overhead extension.

Sit or stand holding a dumbbell behind your head. Both hands should be wrapped around one end of the dumbbell - Make a triangle with your thumbs and forefingers and wrap them around the end. With your upper arms on either side of your ears, elbows up towards the ceiling, slowly lower the dumbbell down towards the center of your back. Pause and slowly extend arms to the ceiling. Return to starting position; repeat 12 to 15 times.

Upright Rows

Lateral raises work the middle deltoid muscle of the shoulder. The upright row also works the important stabilizing muscles in back of the shoulder and upper back, which improves shoulder posture and function.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and grab a barbell in each hand, keeping them shoulder width apart. Slowly pull the weights up towards your chin. Elbows should flare out during the movement. Pause and slowly return barbell to starting position; repeat 12 to 15 times.

The One-Legged Plank

This advanced version of the traditional plank uses both abs and back muscles.

Position yourself on your hands and knees, shoulders directly over the wrists, extending your legs behind you so your body is parallel to the floor. Engage your core by drawing your stomach back and up towards your spine and hold. Without rotating your torso, lift your right leg an inch or two off the ground and hold for 10 or more seconds; slowly lower it to the starting position and switch feet. Alternate legs and repeat on each side. Do not allow your back to sag and do as many as you can with good form.

The Dead Bug

This exercise goes beyond just strengthening the lower portion of the rectus abdominis muscle (the "six-pack" muscle in front of the abdominal area) as in the reverse crunch. The dead bug strengthens the transverse abdominis, the main core muscle, as well as the obliques.

Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Focus on drawing your belly button in towards your spine to stabilize your back. Bring both arms and legs off the floor; knees should be directly over hips and elbows bent, directly over shoulders. Slowly extend right leg and lower your right heel and back of the left hand towards the floor; tap floor lightly and alternate sides - it’s kind of like a backstroke. Do 12 to 15 on each side.

The Jackknife

The jackknife challenges not only the core and abdominal muscles, but the shoulders and chest as well.

 Kneel in front of a fitness ball and roll out over top of it, walking on your hands until you're in a pushup position with the ball under the shins/ankles (easier) or tops of the feet (harder). Keep your body straight, back flat and abs engaged. Roll the ball in, bending the knees towards the chest as you squeeze your abs. Keep all the movement in the knees; avoid pushing back with your arms; keep your back stable. Return to starting position and repeat 10 to 15 reps.

Exercising while on Vacation

When I was little my parents really only had 1 kind of vacation they went on:


Hours upon hours in a stuffy car (not always with AC), not getting any exercise and when we did get outside it was usually for guided tours of caves (spelunking, huzzah), historical sites or museums.

Small surprise that when I reached adulthood my standard for vacations were very different.

#1. I went via train or bus and once there I walked, cycled or took a taxi. It was more relaxing and I got more exercise that way.

#2. I took up freehand mountain climbing. Lots of exercise and some danger involved because there is no safety harness. No more caves for me.

#3. I love Buddhist temples in Asia... and they're usually near the top of a mountain, so again, another excuse to exercise. Take your camera with you.

However not everyone is like me and embraces exercising while on vacation. So here is Three Ways to Be Fit on Vacation

1. Book Hotels with Fitness Facilities

You should rarely book accommodations that doesn't have a gym. Not only does this narrow down your search results for a hotel or resort but it allows you to stick to my normal running + gym regimen.

You will discover that working out first thing in the morning helps you to stay mindful of your diet throughout the day (people tend to overeat while on vacation), and although a vacation allows a little leeway on nutrition initiates, it still helps toward not completely destroying my pre-holiday results!

2. When a Gym is not Available, Make Do

Even though you can make the best effort to stay in hotels with fitness equipment it doesn't always work out. Sometimes, the resort never even had a gym in the first place, their facility is under renovation or they open later than when you need to exercise. In this case you make the most of what you have by running on the beach, doing body weight exercises in your room or walking the grounds of the resort.

3. Plan for some Activity

It's great to sit on your butt all day and heck, you very well may deserve it but planning some hikes, swimming or any other activity is not a bad idea! Not only will you see more of the country that you are visiting but you will work up an appetite for those restaurant sized meal portions.

4. SWIM!

If you are staying at a place near the beach or has a pool, make an effort to use it. Don't just pack your swimsuit and then forget to use it.

Better yet, take up snorkeling. It is AMAZINGLY GOOD FUN.

If a tiger can swim, so can you. :)

Cool Ways to Beat the Summer Heat

Toronto gets really HOT in the summer! The sun, the humidity from the lake and the constant lack of rain often makes many people feel sluggish, and not exactly pumped for a sweaty workout in the intense heat.

The same thing applies when you go on vacation somewhere really hot and realize its way too hot to exercise during the day.

So if you're looking for summer alternatives to exercises that won't leave you feeling (and looking) like a burnt raisin, try the following exercises:

Three Summer Workouts to Stay Cool

1. Public Pools

In Toronto, outdoor public pools are free, and when it's extremely hot they are open until 11pm. Swimming is a fantastic full body workout that combines cardio and strength. A swim is a great way to cool down, and with the extended hours, a dip in the pool after work or even before bed is a cool way to fit in activity this summer.

Or get a membership at a gym (or the YMCA) so you can access their pools.

2. Evening or Early Morning Workouts

When the sun goes down cycling, walking, jogging and even yoga are exercises that can be safely performed in the summer. Doing anything physical in the late morning or afternoon is not recommended. Not only is that the hottest time of the day, but it's also when the sun's UV rays are at their most dangerous levels. Try and evening workout to unwind and work off the stress from the day.

If you're a morning person you can also do early morning workouts before the sun is fully up.

3. Air Conditioned Classes

Maybe it's time to try out a class in an air conditioned studio. Even if it is only once a week dancing, martial arts, yoga and fitness classes are an effective way to beat the heat and achieve fitness goals. This also offers the opportunity to try something new, that has always been on the, "to-do" list.

Always remember to stay hydrated and stop exercising if you feel faint or nauseated.
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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