Exploring Self Through Yoga

GingerIf you have ever been to a yoga class you have probably heard your teacher say “listen to your body” or “pay attention to your breath” or “honour your body” or something of the like.  To be honest when I first started participating I had no idea what these nutty teachers were talking about.  Listen to what? who? where?  I was so focused on looking the way everyone else looked or figuring out how to do one of those crazy push-ups (chaturanga) to realize that I had no idea how to listen to my body.

I approached yoga like I approached my running. Grin and bear it to get to the end! Initially it was more important to make it through a class and get a good sweat on than it was to pay attention to any of those “fluffy” things my teacher was saying. I mean really how do you  “listen” to a body anyways it can’t say anything.  Then one day it happened I heard it! I was doing my best at forcing my body into some crazy hand balance pose (Bakasana or crow) when I realized I full on wasn’t breathing. I was holding everything in so tight that I didn’t realize it was this misdirection of effort that was continuously knocking me out of the pose. I wasn’t listening to my body!

Many years later I began teaching yoga myself. I would find myself giving the same direction about listening to your body and your breath, while encouraging my students to find their personal edge.  Then it occurred to me…do they have any idea what it feels like to listen to their body? do they know what I mean when I say “find your edge”? or are they doing the exact same thing I was doing trying to do…win at yoga?

It was through this realization that I allowed me to modify my queuing, and *fingers crossed* this has helped my students. Yoga has afforded me the opportunity to not only explore through my solo practice but I have also been given the gift of teaching others and learning through their experience, breath and postures.  It is during these times of exploration and learning that I have found yoga to open me up to exploring alternative ways of absorbing new material and allows me to actually understand what my body is saying.

Now after that huge lead up…time to explain what I mean by our bodies talking.  Through my life as a runner and a poor food choice maker (is that a thing?) my body has told me things weren’t right but providing me with achy knees, eczema, a sore stomach, irritated bowels, and now you probably know more about me than you probably ever wanted to.  It was by not listening to these discomforts that I drove myself down deeper into this spiral of pain and unpleasantness. However, not sure if you are or ever have been on one of these spirals, over time my body stopped telling me what it didn’t agree with (probably because I told it to shut it so much with the use of antacids, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.).  After my body found its equilibrium again I started to feel “normal” so the next time I had some type of unpleasant flare up I once again blamed it on my body instead of what I was doing to my body.

How did yoga help with this? It gave me one single second.  It gave me a second here or there to just sit with my body.  It gave me the opportunity to learn that pain isn’t some type of punishment that my body is dealing out, but it is more like a memo. Once I was able to start slowing down, getting out of the mind set of winning at yoga I was able to listen.  Now, please don’t be mistaken, I am still a fairly competitive person (and in the worst way…you know one of those people that says they aren’t competitive but are) but I respect that part of me and use it to motivate me but understand that it isn’t always the right voice to listen to all the time.

So what, right? Who cares if I can understand what is up right? Well for one really care.  It is awesome to know that when my stomach acts up I should probably lay off the dairy or that when my yoga teacher is telling us to push deeper but listen to our breath I know what my breath should sound like for me.  It is awesome and empowering to know that achy knees means I need to build strength, that low energy means I should check how many veggies I am eating, that moving deeper into a pose might be right for some but it’s not right for me.  Yoga has taught me how to use those precious seconds in my life to learn a little bit more about myself and what my body needs.

So next time your yoga teacher says listen to your breath or your body use those seconds to listen and hear what your body is throwing your way, and then ride the wave of the positive benefits of the new connection.

Happy Thursday Everyone!

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It’s Running Season – Tips for Injury Prevention

Spring has official sprung and the residents of Ottawa have definitely emerged from their homes, packed up their winter clothing and are sporting flip flops and shorts. It is that time of the year where all of the extreme runners, fair weather runners, first timers and weekend warriors start heading outside in their brightly coloured tank tops, running shorts and their newest pair of light weight running shoes.   As running season approaches and people get excited about moving, being outside and shedding the “winter weight” it is good to take a second just to go over a couple reminders to keep us all healthy, happy and injury free as we start to increase our kilometers, speed and endurance.

Running HappyKeeping your Body Happy during Running Seasons:

  1. STRETCH! I lead a run club for women in the summer months and this is probably one of my top struggles as a run coach. I can tell you to stretch and I can be there to make sure you you have a quick post run stretch, but once you get home I can’t make sure my runners are grabbing their foam rollers and going to town as suggested. So I beg of you please for the love of your joints, muscles, range of motion and injury prevention stretch! Get on your foam roller, find some yoga tune up balls, or follow a running magazine stretching sequence, no matter what JUST STRETCH! Our joints and muscles take a serious beating when we run so it is important to show them some love.
  2. Drink more than you think you need. This might sound like a real silly reminder but we don’t always feel thirsty. Maybe it was cool out or maybe it was raining, sometimes the weather surrounding our runs makes us feel more hydrated and in less need of water than we really are. It is important to consume water before and after your runs and to bring some along when running anything over 5km, ESPECIALLY when it is super warm out.
  3. Running gear can be cool, but it is also useful. I said it, running gear is cool, it is fun and gets me motivated to lace-up my shoes and hit the pavement. You don’t need fancy running gear to get out there, but things like a good pair of light weight socks, a running hat, a fuel belt for your water (see #2), a supportive/comfortable pair of runners and some light weight clothing will go a long way when running outside in the summer.
  4. Strength training. Chances are you may have picked up running because you are more of the endurance type, than the “let’s pick up heavy things and move them” type. However life is about balance and so is running. Similar to stretching you are much less likely to suffer an injury if you strength train regularly. I am not suggesting you go out and buy yourself a fancy pants expensive gym membership, however I am recommending committing to at least 2 strength training (with weights or body weight) workouts a week in addition to your runs, heck they can be after your run, right there outside in the sun. Focusing on building and supporting the muscles (think glutes, hamstrings, quads, shins, calves and core) involved in supporting your body during your running sessions.
  5. Turn your runs into learning opportunities.  As runners (new or veteran) there is a tendency to push through, because let’s be honest if we didn’t “push through” on a regular bases we probably wouldn’t last longer than 10 minutes. It is in our nature to ignore pinches, pains, and aches and instead wear them like badges. Feel free to continue to be proud of those sore quads after a good run or those tight calves as you roll them out on your foam roller (see #1), but be sure to take a step back and listen. Our society has gotten away from listening to the tips and clues our body gives us, we numb the pain with Advil/ Tylenol, we rub on joint relief creams and slap a brace on it, but don’t take the time to understand what our bodies are telling us. So if that heel, hip, knee or whatever hurts after your runs take stock, take a step back and figure out what your body is telling you.  Maybe you need to get checked out by a sports doctor, perhaps more stretching or more strength training is in order.  Regardless of what the “fix” is support your body instead of telling it what to do.

Now that you are geared up, stretched out, strengthened and hydrated lace up those shoes and get a nice run in.

Happy Thursday Everyone!

Summer Time!

This summer seems like it is really trying to wrap itself up. I am definitely not ready for the warm weather and sun to be over though so hopefully time starts to slow down a little bit, so I can add in some more relaxing and outdoor time.   In the mean time this summer has been a super exciting one for me. I have wrapped up a handful of challenges and started new ones.

My goal this summer was to start getting myself out there and working a bit more to achieving my goals of teaching yoga in an established yoga studio.  I have been class time from a local studio since I received my yoga teacher certification but there is something comforting and encouraging about having the opportunity to be apart of a yoga studio and the yoga community in your hometown.

I am proud to say that this past month has brought with it many successes, one of which is having the opportunity to sub at a studio in our Byward Market here in Ottawa and another one happened this morning.  I had the opportunity today to be on a live news broadcast to tell everyone who was awake and tuned in this morning about my Rock n’ Roll yoga class.   It is something that I came up with before even heading off to Costa Rica for YTT and I am so happy I have the opportunity to share what it is all about with people through a new medium.

RRY

A huge thank you to CTV Morning News Live and to Studio X Ottawa for giving me this fantastic opportunity to talk about something I love, and love to share with others. If you want to see the whole little segment click on the link (News Clip)

I also have one more surprise, but I am waiting for it to be announced officially before I share it with everyone here on my blog.  So stay tuned to find out what my other big adventure/opportunity is!

blissI am so excited and feeling so blessed and lucky for all these positive and awesome things that are seemingly happening all at once. Thank you for all the support from you my readers and from my friends and family.

Hope you are all having a glorious Tuesday!

 

Weekend Round Up – Learning!

This past weekend was a busy one and it was super fun. My weekend started off Friday evening with the first installment of my Personal Training Specialist certification and it definitely wasn’t 100% what I expected (in a pleasant way)

I had expected for the course to be hands on and give us some practical experience when it comes actually training someone, but I was not prepared for the actual intense physical aspect of the course.   After doing some practice runs at training another classmate we had about an hour and a half of plyometrics Saturday afternoon. By the end of the day I was zonked from all the class learning and physical activity.

I was zonked and went straight to bed at 8:30pm, something about feeling like you have been working out for the past 5 hours will really take it out of a person.

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Seeing how the half marathon Susan and I sighed up for is in under a month we wanted to get in one last super long run before we started to tapper down to prepare for the race. So Sunday morning the two of us were up bright and early for a nice 17k run.

While running we saw volunteers setting up for Ottawa’s Army Run and we had the opportunity to watch the runners starting to head into their corals getting ready to start their race. Seeing everything being set up and the look of excitement on the faces of the runners, just revved Susan and I up for our half in October.

After our run we headed on over to the farmer’s market for some weekly groceries, then I quickly headed off for day three of my certification class and hoped there wouldn’t be any intense working out during the day. When I found out the focus would be on program design and stretching you better believe I was excited. After 17km my legs were loving any stretch they could get.

After three days of intense learning, exercising and stretching I was definitely ready to flop myself on my couch and just watch some movies with my husband and kittens. Although it wasa fast weekend it was still pretty great.

Now back to Monday and back to work. Happy Monday everyone.

10 Tips to Managing Stress

I have done a lot of work on myself when it comes to eating habits and exercise, I have even thrown in a large amount of effort in the time management department (it was the only way to squeeze in all the stuff I wanted to do). But to this day I still struggle with stress management. I mean I am getting much better at it, but as much as I would like to hope that one day I will just wake up and be a zen master to think I am one now is pretty unrealistic.

I have over time been able to realize my stress triggers and I am much more capable of realizing that I am stressed, however I haven’t really spent much time working at learning how to manage said stress. Although I seemingly haven’t done much to learn how to manage my stress levels I am very proud of myself for becoming more mindful and capable of realizing normal tiredness from times where I want to hide out because of stress.
wolfI would say that since I last wrote about stress I have gotten much better at identifying my triggers and reactions, which is a great step in the right direction.

This all leads me to the question of “how do I manage all of this stress?” Like anything in the area of health and wellness it is very individual when it comes to how each of us deals with and manages our stress levels. Although it is different for each of us there are some hints or tips that all of us can test out until we find something that works for us.

stress10 Tips to Managing Stress:

  1. Watch something funny. Laughter is great for your whole body, it helps to relieve physical stress, while helping to release endorphins, boost your immune system and lower blood pressure and improves blood flow. Something as simple as your favorite funny movie can help you to relax from stressful situations and will help you to start feeling more relaxed in no time.
  2. SLEEP! For some reason this one keeps coming up over and over again, I guess it is pretty important. Some people when they become overly stressed might end up lacking sleep. It is important to allow your body a rest period each day so that it has the energy and strength needed to take on tomorrow. Be sure you are resting up and getting enough Zzzz’s.
  3. Spend some time with friends. Now we are all busy people with work obligations, exercise, family, home renovations etc. but sometimes all we need is some time with our friends. Spending time with a good friend gives you the chance to blow off some steam, laugh (see #1), and leave the rest of the world behind. Spending time with friends will provide you with the support and feeling of belonging that you need to help cultivate strength to overcome stressful situations.
  4. Acknowledge what upsets you and then move on. It is important to acknowledge what is upsetting you, whether that means writing it down or making a mental note, it is essential that you realize what is stressing you out. Without acknowledging what is stressing you out you can’t address the issue. Once it has been acknowledged create a plan of attack; Do you need to schedule more time for food prep so you don’t need to worry about it throughout the week? Do you need to enlist the help of others? Do you need to schedule yourself a bedtime? whatever it is you need to do to address the issue, make a plan of attack and then move on. Don’t dwell on your stresses.
  5. Meditate. Now this is one that I know is super beneficial but I myself have the HARDEST time with it. Which probably means I should be putting a bit more effort into it. There are various forms of mediation (seated, standing, walking, etc) and there are so many sources out there, such as podcasts and classes, to help walk you through the process. One thing my trainer told me that has helped me with my meditation practice is to do your best to keep your mind focused on one thing; an image, a memory, or a mantra. When your mind has wandering thoughts acknowledge them and then visualize plucking them out of your focal point to come back to once your meditation is done.
  6. Change something small. When feeling overwhelmed and stressed out it can sometimes help to change one small aspect of your routine. It is kind of like a miniature jump start for your brain helping it to focus on something other than your impending stress. This one small thing can be changing the route you walk to work, changing your running path, adding a different spice to your chicken for supper. What you change might seem insignificant but it might just be what you need to kick you out of a rut.
  7. Be grateful. Now I am not saying you aren’t, I am sure we are all grateful at one point or another, what I am suggesting here is to be consciously grateful. Take the time to go over your day and identify one thing that you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be huge it could be that you are grateful for your bike ride home from work, your first cup of coffee or the sunny weather. Whatever it is, identify it and acknowledge why you are grateful for it. Mentally reviewing your day looking for the positive instead of the negative will overtime help you to focus on the good in life instead of dwelling on the bad.
  8. Exercise. Yes, exercise is a form of physical stress and yes it can add to your overall stress levels, but overall it is a great way to manage your stress levels. Exercise helps you to focus on something else while releasing those wonderful endorphins. The exercise you take part in doesn’t have to be an intense 10k run, it can be a nice peaceful yoga practice, just do what you can to get moving. Not only will it help to release some feel good endorphins but you will probably sleep better too because of it.
  9. Sharing is Caring. Sharing your kindness and helping others is a great way to relieve some stress, if only for allowing you to focus on others and not on your stresses for a second. The act of giving not only helps to make the giver and the receiver feel great, sharing your special talents and abilities helps to create a more positive community for all of us to live in.
  10. Clean up your fridge. What you are eating plays a huge role in how you are feeling. If you are fueling yourself with healthy, whole foods you are more likely to be happier and less stressed out. There are lists and lists of “stress reducing” foods on the internet and not a single one of those lists includes deep fried or high sugar anything. We get what we put in, if you are filling your gas tank with sugar it is likely your body won’t be as efficient if you had filled it with fresh green vegetables, whole grains, organic proteins, etc.

I hope these tips are something you are able to apply to your life when you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and stressed. I know that making sure I have a never ending supply of tasty healthy snacks and being sure to keep up my regular exercise routine helps to keep me feeling happy, positive and relatively stress free. So test them out and find out what works for you.

Happy Humpday everyone!

What do you do to manage your stress? Do you have any tips to share?

 

Maintenance

Since the end of the 50 day challenge my eating habits have been hit and miss. I find it a bit tricky at times to self regulate when there aren’t definite parameters around what I should and should not be eating. However, even though my eating has become much more relaxed, compared to the challenge at least, I have managed to stick to the goals I had set out for myself. I am allowing for treats and keeping them as treats instead of daily snacks, I am staying active, learning from my set backs, and remaining positive instead of beating myself up when I might over indulge.

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Although I think my maintenance and clean eating routine has been going pretty great I find it helpful to have mini goals and challenges for myself. So as a bit of a challenge and motivation to stay on track I have been attempting to make at least one recipe from my Eat Clean cookbook every week. I have found that although the recipes seem a little overwhelming at first (there is a long list of ingredients a lot of the time) they end up being so easy to toss together. The list of ingredients ends up looking never ending because of all the herbs and spices that end up going into a dish but in the end nothing (except maybe the BBQ sauce) has taken me more than 30 minutes to throw together.

Keeping with my goal of trying to introduce new clean recipes into my weekly meal prep last night I whipped up some scallops with pesto quinoa and grilled garlic scapes (or garlic spears). Being someone who is allergic to nuts I have actually never had pesto for fear that it was made with nuts, but because I was making it at home I subbed the nuts for some raw pumpkin seeds. Taking fresh basil from my basil plant, mint from a friends garden and the rest of the herbs from the grocery store, the pesto was a great addition to a light and flavourful meal.

Finding fresh and flavourful meals helps to keep me motivated and focused on my personal fitness and health goals. Having variety in what I am eating keeps me interested, and I find it rewarding to have a tasty reminders that healthy food is also tasty food. Is this something you do to keep yourself focused on your personal goals?

On top of testing out delicious new foods I have also to date managed to keep my promise in regards to making fun workouts for everyone. I had been browsing my Workin’ It section and found that the arm portion was definitely lacking so I started testing out various combinations to make a great sweaty workout to share. I think I came up with a great combo, at least my shoulders and triceps were killing me the next day so you know that means it was working!

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There are two moves I would like to focus on: the falling push-up and bridge with a press. These are moves that I haven’t included in a workout in the past and feel like some explanation might be needed so I have included some videos of what the moves look like below.

Falling Push-Up

Bridge with Press:

I hope these videos help and I hope you love this workout, I had a pretty fun time creating it. Please let me know if you have any requests for the next Gingersneeze workout I would love to work on something for you.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Arms and Abs for Spring

So yesterday was the first day of Spring but if you are living in the Ottawa area I am sure you would agree with me that it definitely doesn’t feel like it. After getting dumped on with another 15 cm of snow on Tuesday it feels more like Winter than Spring, but it is starting to warm up (fingers crossed) so hopefully we will see less white stuff soon.

Weather talk aside I have been working very diligently on a new upper body workout for all of you. It started out as an arm workout and then I thougth what am I doing this should really be your upper body, so I added in some core, I know you are all super excited about that. This is the third workout in the getting ready for running series, hopefully you have had the chance to check out the leg and ab workouts, if not I strongly recommend you give them a try and work them in after a cardio session.

Making this routine was challenging, I think I went into it thinking “only arms, only things that workout your arms” but at the same time “no weights let’s just use our body weight” and with these self imposed limitations I came up with a couple exercises but the routine just didn’t feel completed and that is when I realized it was missing something. So I think what I have concocted here is a great workout and my upper body would agree.

arms and core workout

So repeat the 3 circuits 2-3 times (optimally 3 times) resting 20 to 30 seconds in between each circuit. Do your best not to take any breaks while going through the circuits to get the most of the workout. I also recommend you do 20-30 minutes of cardio to warm up before, the cardio will not only warm you up it also helps to round out the workout and really get your heart pumping.

There are some moves in the workout that not everyone might be aware of so I have included some links below as a guide.

Inch Worm (omit the push-up)
Supermans
Shoulder Stabilizers

I hope you all have a great time with this. Let me know in the comments below if you felt the burn!