Working to a better me

I am not the biggest fitness guru in the world, not even in this sisterhood, but I do have a few things that I love doing as I work my way to a better me.

1. Hot Yoga:
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I have Toni to blame for this one. I didn’t think I would like it at all. I thought I would hate the heat, and just hate the fact that my body can’t do all the yoga poses. However, the first night I attempted this I felt so calm and at peace with my body and myself afterward I knew it was love. I love my body for all its largeness, but know it can be better. And now I can listen to my body better than I have in the past.

2. Crunches:
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I have a love for them. I can do 96 of them in a row, which I am pretty damn proud of myself for. For this I have to thank my old burlesque teacher, Miss Sassy Ray. She is wonderful, and showed me that no matter what size you are, you can dance, crunch, and wiggle with the best of them.

3. Eating Better:
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Less fast food, less junk overall, and just trying to put more veggies where there is too much starch. This one is hard because I live with so many people, with varying likes and dislikes, but I have found ways to sneak in the healthy stuff.

I am not the best at being healthy or treating my body well, but I am on a road leading to a better me, and working on a better happiness for who I am, what I look like, and my size.
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~ Andreah

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Fitting in fitness

With my life in the fast-lane and no slow down in sight, I have had to rejig a few things in order to fight my way back to balance.

One of the areas I promised myself and my sanity that I would work on was attempting to fit in my workouts more often then I had been. After a few (mostly failed) attempts at fitting in my usual full hour long workouts, I soon realized that this very real struggle was not as easy to overcome as writing a post pointing out a lack of my balance-providing routine. I soon began to think of creative ways in which I could fit in enough effort to get the momentum going and help build back up my dedication to fitness.

While I am clearly struggling to hit my stride, a few of my favourite tricks to offset not being able to dedicate a complete hour or two a day to my workouts and working overtime to keep me sane have been:

1. Mini-challenges:  In order to make sure I at least maintain my current level of fitness, I give myself little mini-challenges that run for week or month long periods.  As I will openly admit to anyone who asks, my favourite muscle grouping to work out and work on has to be my glutes and quads. Not only do leg/butt exercises burn the most calories, they also allow me to personally feel the most powerful. As an avid runner, knowing my legs are strong enough to help prevent injury is important to me – especially as I already have one knee that requires extra care. And let’s not forget to mention that a squat booty is the best booty!

Truth.

Truth.

My favourite mini challenge is giving myself a set number of squats to perform every time I go to the washroom (after I have gone pee of course), with 25 usually being the the amount I aim for. This type of challenge allows me to break down my goal of staying healthy during chaos into manageable, digestible pieces that I know are realistic to achieve during a hectic day. The best part is that mini-challenges can be applied in many different ways – elevated pushups off the counter every time you enter the kitchen or even calf raises while pumping gas for example.

Try this one - mark it in your daily calendar to increase chances of success

Try this one – mark it in your daily calendar to increase chances of success

2. Keep a must make date with yourself: Saturday mornings are mine. Knowing that I have a standing date with myself a minimum of once a week, helps me to keep the stress of not being active enough during the week, at bay. Whether I am lucky enough to spend a gorgeous morning hiking at sunrise with some of my favourite ladies, fitting in a solid run on one of my favourite trails, or adding in sprints while on my walk with the fur-babies (their favourite), the first item on the agenda for my Saturday has to be something active.

Be the BOSS.

Be the BOSS.

As long as I do everything in my power to make that date weekly, I don’t beat myself up if it ends up being the only activity I am able to fit in during the week. It also gives me something to look forward to, a light at the end of the tunnel, the pick-me up to give me some energy.

3. Ask for help: The one fitness lesson that has taken the longest for me to accept, asking for help/support from the people around you can often be the lifesavers you require, right when you require them.

Still a struggle some days

Still a struggle some days

Personally, I have asked for some of the women I work out with to push me a little, get me to commit some more me-time by planning workout dates in advance. They’ve already got me feeling more motivated and determined then I have in quite some time. Seriously, nothing can replace the support your sisters in fitness (in my case by blood as well) provide when you’re struggling or stumbling in your journey.

4. Self-talk: Controlling my internal talk-track can be a struggle on a good day, let alone a day – or pile of them – that seem to have more things added to the to-do list then checked off, but it is so very necessary. However, becoming my own worst enemy mentally will do me no good and only add to my stress level. Some days it is hard to, but I am more calm if I am able to control my thoughts, keeping them as positive as possible and provide myself gentle reminders as to why I started my fitness journey in the first place. When I’m really struggling, I simply activate tip number 3 and reach out to someone I know has the power to be my cheerleader when I need it most.

I really cannot wait to get back into a routine that allows me time to continue on this lifelong journey I am so desperately missing and so determined to maintain. Until then, I’m counting my current reality as part of the dance and doing my best to follow my own advice.

~ Toni

A day in the life: Toni edition

This theme was an idea proposed to us by our Julia and at first I thought it would be a cute/light/fluffy/standard kind of post and was pretty excited to have an assignment.

But then it turned into a sub-conscience review of how I’ve been spending my time and where I dedicate myself.

Usually, I am a well balanced citizen – I work 8-10 hours a day in a Monday-Friday, office job. I exercise regularly, squeezing in a run and a workout as often as possible. I cook a healthy, hearty meal for whoever happens to be in the house that evening, or join a few girlfriends for a bite if Michael is working.

However lately it has been a bit of a gross imbalance and I’ve been a bit more of a workaholic then I normally am. There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, so I’m digging in, taking a page from my hero of overtime and putting in the work required.

That being said and without further ado, a day in the life of current Toni:

I usually set my alarm and successfully wake around 6:00am without issue, earlier if I am ambitious enough to squeeze in a morning run. But lately…

I can't believe I actually operated my camera properly... Already 10 min of snooze activated

I can’t believe I actually operated my camera properly… Already 10 min of snooze activated

Yes, I have to set two alarms, one iPod, one phone. I'm the worst.

Yes, I have to set two alarms, one iPod, one phone. I’m the worst.

When I ACTUALLY got into the shower :/

When I ACTUALLY got into the shower :/

In my defence, it is hard to leave this face, which without fail is sprawled out beside me (all person-like) every morning.

My gorgeous girl

My gorgeous girl

I’ve become a master of the braid for simplicity sake, but on this particular morning I was lucky enough to have showered post-run the night before which gave me a bit of time to properly get ready.

After a quick body shower for a wake up, I grab my makeup bag and wait for the first interruption of my day…

She's baaaack

She’s baaaack

Without fail, Adrian wakes up and wanders into our washroom wondering where I’ve gone, peering at me with her big hazel eyes, bucking my hands with her nose when I begin my morning routine and attempt to make myself look a little less tired…

Seriously though. Relentless.

Seriously though. Relentless.

After a few more attempts to lure me back for more morning cuddles with her and the handsome gent I’ve left behind, Adrian goes to find Rocky and allows me to put on my makeup, put a wave in my hair and get dressed.

Miraculously though, when I head back to the washroom for one final look over….

She is the sweetest pest, ever.

She is the sweetest pest, ever.

After a few more attempts to wake my fiancé, and a few more attempts on his behalf to get me to stay, I manage to make it to my truck – Billie – who on this particular morning, due to my lovely triple snooze and lack of K-cups, is on a life saving mission straight to the life juice…

Life juice - no-fancy-smancy- Frapa-waste-of-calorie-nothing, just a blonde blend with milk.

Life juice – no-fancy-smancy- Frapa-waste-of-calorie-nothing, just a blonde blend with milk.

You will notice that the life-juice for me was more important than the life juice for Billie…

Luckily it seems Billie warns me a great deal in advance of when she will actually be out of fuel, so I chance it and safely roll into the parking lot at work just after 8:15.

Although I secretly prefer to be quiet in the morning and ease into the day, I happily and cheerfully greet my co-workers milling though the kitchen, fill up my water bottle and head up to my desk, which in the morning looks like this…

This is about as clean as it gets, which for my OCD does not do well.

This is about as clean as it gets, which for my OCD does not do well.

My meetings began almost immediately – mostly reviewing details of upcoming events and planning for future projects that I will need to know about. After about the third meeting, shortly after 11:30, I excuse myself for an early lunch and manage to fit in a personal appointment.

Kuljeet – the most amazing aesthetician, ever – thankfully squeezed me in after trying to make my schedule work with hers for quite a few days. She is also conveniently located 4 blocks from my office – a win in my books.

Say hi to Kuljeet everyone!  She's the master of all things body care and aesthetics.

Say hi to Kuljeet everyone! She’s the master of all things body care and aesthetics.

After allowing Kuljeet to torture me for 20 min and then paying her for it, I jetted back to the office (yes, Billie jets) and lost myself in an afternoon of packing for a sales dinner, attending 3 more meetings, tending to our brochure and printing needs with my rep James, and answering the insane amount of email and requests coming my way without pause.

By roughly 3:00pm, my desk looks as though a bomb has gone off…

A little anxiety just looking at it like this...

A little anxiety just looking at it like this… And I tidied it for the picture…

After leaving the last meeting of the day I realized that Michael has messaged me multiple times, wondering if I will be home on time, stating that I obviously will not be and then contemplating a night out with friends if I wouldn’t be anytime soon.

I caught him with a call and apologized for another later than desirable night and we made plans for the evening. When we hung up I realized it was only 5:45 so I decided to answer just “one more email” and before I knew it, it was 7:00 and I was LATE.

7:15 when I walked in the door... Please notice the ever present Doberman requesting my attention.

7:15 when I walked in the door… Please notice the ever present Doberman requesting my attention.

Deciding I was too tired to whip up a from scratch meal as I usually would, we debated the quick and easy dinner at home, take out, or an evening out date night style. We settled on quick and easy and I whipped up a round of delicious chicken-bacon, grilled-cheese sandwiches for myself and my stud.

3 things:  1) thank goodness for this panini press - best gift ever.  2) too tired to remember to take pictures of my delicious creation in process 3) Michael was STARVING and demanded his food before I could take a picture of his too

3 things:
1) thank goodness for this panini press – best gift ever.
2) too tired to remember to take pictures of my delicious creation in process
3) Michael was STARVING and demanded his food before I could take a picture of his too

After we devoured our lazy and unhealthy meal, I eased Mike into the idea that I was not done for the evening and still owed my weekly post by promising to watch a movie with him. So we curled up to Wolf of Wall Street and I wrote the night away (read: was constantly distracted by Leo, and all of the boobs, sex, drugs and profanity going on).

Trusty iPad, sweats, a flick and my man

Trusty iPad, sweats, a flick and my man

Now, with the clock rolling over the 24th hour and creeping slowly into today, my day in the life post is complete and I desperately need sleep.

~ Toni

It’s contagious

At this point in our blogger/reader relationship, you should know that I enjoy living a healthier lifestyle.

From the whole and healthy food that I use to nourish my body, to the addiction I have to movement, to the thrill I feel when I tackle and triumph over a new challenge – I love it and crave it.

Pinning exercise

For a while, my fitness journey was shared mostly with my good friend and previous trainer, Julie. While a new career path has changed our relationship slightly, I will forever attribute the beginning of this love affair to her pushing me to be better than myself.

I can tell you honestly that the change I love the most is not in the pounds shed, the firmness found, or the satisfaction of needing an entirely new wardrobe because nothing fit anymore. The change I love the most is how proud I am at what my body is capable of – the natural amount of energy I have,  how fast I can go, how long I can go, how much weight I can carry, that people are surprised at my strength based on my size – it’s all a thrill to me.

Running late

Up until about 10 months ago, this shift in lifestyle had been purely selfish and the thing I was doing for me. I never imagined that I was affecting or influencing the women around me. Slowly but surely, I was joined regularly by my girlfriend Chantelle whenever I would head out for a run, bike ride or workout. Her determination was impressive and her desire to be better for herself was inspiring. It pushed me harder, made me work more and reach new goals of my own. I was so excited that she saw what she wanted to accomplish for herself.

And then one day, my older sister Julia asked what I was still doing to stay fit. When I told her, she wanted in! We did things as a threesome when our schedules worked and in pairs or solo when it didn’t. It was awesome! There is nothing like finding a group of women with the same goals and desires as you. It made me feel normal, accepted and so proud.

And then my mini-me Jacqui asked if I wanted to workout with her one day, and then go for a run with her another. It made my heart fly. We quickly became a foursome of sisters-in-fitness. While hectic schedules, rotating turns to have the end-of-the season cold, or rough and sleepless nights don’t always and rarely allow us to all be together, the extra accountability was just what we needed.

exercise-fart

And then our adopted sister Kim heard about how much Julia was loving it and decided one evening to join us. She was hooked! We pushed each other, read and researched, gave suggestions when we needed some help to overcome an obstacle or plateau – it’s been incredible to watch. Seeing each one of these women find what works for them – Chantelle’s new found love of hot yoga, Julia, Kim and Jacqui’s love of running and finding their stride, our mutual love/hate relationship with HIIT and burpees –  it must be how parents and teachers feel when lessons are not only learned, but applied and new milestones are reached by their wee ones.

Burpees

Julia’s lovable friend Sara, whom I have known since my pre-teen years, has just recently been inducted into the TLT (an acronym I refuse to spell out for its sheer embarrassment – thanks ladies!) group of incredibly supportive women. While I wouldn’t consider what we do a class or bootcamp, and I am no body builder or personal trainer, I am incredibly proud of the example I set because of the fire that was found in me by my trainer.

~ Toni

P.S. Julie is now in the real estate market and loving her new career. If you’re in the market for sale or purchase of a new home or investment property, contact Julie Belanger at realtorjuliebelanger@gmail.com.

Sisterhood Spotlight: Greatist.com

When it comes to finding support for leading a healthy lifestyle, it’s hard to find a reliable source that isn’t pushing their own agenda or selling their own brand of get-fit-quick propaganda. While information is accessible everywhere from Google to Pinterest, I’ve come to know and love one particular fitness blog that seems to satisfy all areas of a healthy me – mind, body and soul.

Greatist.com is a blog that covers all areas of living a healthy lifestyle. It’s not focused on being skinny, losing weight, pills, quick fixes or fads. Greatist.com strictly focuses on over all health be it mental, physical or spiritual.

Greatest.com home page, May 23, 2014

Greatest.com home page, May 23, 2014

This specific blog is suited for anyone who is looking to live and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. Every post is vetted to make sure the facts are based on a legitimate scientific study, that they are fun and easy to read, and that the information you are receiving is real. If you are interested in yoga, crossfit, running, healthy recipes, tips on how to manage stress, depression, a bad stroke of luck, tools to train your brain and help you ace that test, or even a daily workout, greatest.com is the site for you.

Personally, I opted in for the daily email – it’s a daily digest of posts containing an array  of topics and I find it a great reminder to get up and do something physically active, everyday (yes, even though today’s daily email was about drinking…).

The daily email - May 23, 2014

The daily email – May 23, 2014

I recommend greatest.com to anyone looking for tips, tricks and support on their journey of improving their overall health – you won’t be disappointed!

Happy, happy Friday from the Sisterhood!

~Toni

Letting go of Shakira

No one is perfect. Everyone has their imperfections. But it seems that our own are more apparent to ourselves when we are looking in the mirror before leaving for work, or getting ready to go out.  We all have our ways of covering them up, or coping with them.

Myself, I makes jokes about my flaws, I mock myself, because if I do it, then it won’t hurt so bad when other people notice. I pointed it out to them, I am aware of my appearance, so they have to take notice of my bravery and blunt nature, and just accept it as me…right?

 

 

Here is a news flash, I wish I were thinner, and that my skin was flawless…

 

I wish I didn’t have to wax my eyebrows (damn you, Dad and those Portuguese genes)….

 

 

And so I have a prescription cream for my skin (although I will argue is does nothing), I have a grooming regime to ensure my eyebrows are two separate entities and not one, and I have started to work out.

Don’t we all have a list of things we want to change? Tweak? It’s no secret that Julia, Toni and myself have started to work out; they have introduced me to the love of running, and although I am not totally in love with it right now, I can see how when you start you just can’t stop.

For me, the joy I get from working out is the new perspective that it has given me. Before when I decided I should start working out, about the time Cody proposed, my goals were unobtainable, because not only did I want to lose weight, but I wanted to grow taller, a feat that I have not been capable of since the 8th grade, and I wanted to change my body type. I didn’t want to put the work in, I only wanted to pin pictures of women with amazing bodies and then by the power of osmosis, it would happen!

Since I started working out, I have stumbled upon more and more blogs about other people’s love affairs and break-ups with exercising and the movement to love your body at every shape on a site called Health At Every Size. The most recent I came across was a fellow blogger, Talkin’ Reckless, who publicly announced her break-up with exercising  Her post resonated with me! Not only a couple of hours earlier I was talking with one of my best friends Kim, who has been a major inspiration of mine when it comes to health and fitness, about how I was finally happy with my body, because I was not depriving myself of things, and that I understood that I will never have Shakira’s body, but rather my own version of it.

 

Today I am making better choices with what I put into my body by not focusing on the quantity but the quality. I am working out more and finding myself needing it, and wanting to work out for me. I am comfortable in my own skin, and love posting about the feats that I have accomplished!

I still have goals for my fitness; however they are realistic and I am setting myself up to accomplish them, instead of failing. I have found a new bond with the ladies I work out with – a sisterhood if you will. They motivate me when temptation is around every corner, they push me (and I need to be pushed) and they are there to cushion the fall when I stray off the path.

Like I said, I am comfortable in my own skin, and it feels AMAZING!

~ Jacqui

 

I have a ‘thing’

You get one shot. One chance in this life to reach your goals, achieve your dreams, to overcome obstacles, and to better yourself – mind, body and spirit. 

I am nothing special, out of the ordinary or exceptional by any means. I am a normal (well…fairly normal), girl-next-door type of woman. I do not have an expansive bank account, or talents that set me a part from the crowd.  I do not foresee my story being one of fame (outside of my inner circle of course) or fortune (although, according to Julia I am a future millionairess).

I do however have a ‘thing’.

My ‘thing’ makes me happy, helps me sleep better, aids in clearing my head (sometimes it just won’t shut up!), gives me the energy to help Julia with my INSANELY energetic nieces and equally as curious nephew and care for my own family, grants me patience when stressed and the determination to reach my goals, has improved my confidence, helps me keep up with my two large dogs that require a ton of exercise… and it certainly hasn’t hurt in the bedroom. 😉

My ‘thing’ is working out, in any capacity. Whether it is hiking, strength training, running the track, biking a trail, playing ‘horsey’ with Sophie or swimming laps, I want in.

Hiking in Blue Mountain for Shelby's Bachelorette

Hiking in Blue Mountain for Shelby’s Bachelorette

Two years ago, you would have never pegged me for someone who loves (yes, you read that right, LOVES) to work out. While I have always been conscious about my body, I was never one who ‘hated’ on it or complained about it. I had curves, an average waist line and overall I was happy with how I felt.

Then Jacqui suggested that we should try out a local bootcamp she had heard about through work (which is where I met Julie, my amazing trainer and now good friend). Our readers should know that at the time of this suggestion the sisters had been trying to get together at least once a week, which had resulted in A LOT of baking and in turn a little over indulgence.  Jacqui’s suggestion was a welcomed hit.

After an initial fitness test, weigh in and measurements recorded, we started Julie’s class. The first one did me in.

I was sweaty, I was tired, I felt weak, I smelled, I had struggled the whole way through.

I  loved it.

I was hooked. I loved how I felt during and even more so when I was SO sore and couldn’t convince my legs to climb the stairs the next day.

At first, bootcamp was a twice to three times a week activity that I did with my sisters. Then I added in running on my own time and hiking with a few girlfriends.

Running The Grand River Trail

Running the Grand River Trail

I would work out in parks, in basement studios, on ‘Mount Trashmore’ in Kitchener, in my backyard, the track at Benny’s, on the Grand River Trail – anywhere I could find space.

Hiking Tewes Falls, Dundas ON

Hiking Tewes Falls, Dundas, ON

I still do. I am blessed with friends that also share in my passion for fitness and drive me to keep pushing myself. My fiancé is trying to remember not to mess with me when I haven’t made a workout or didn’t push myself hard enough. (Come to think of it, this rule also applies for food and sleep…poor guy.)

I hope I never lose my fire for fitness. It has enriched my life in more ways then one. I feel balanced, happy and at peace… It also gave me the confidence to do this:

The 'Mike approved' blog shot - photo credit: Close Your Eyes Photography

The ‘Mike approved’ blog shot – photo credit: Close Your Eyes Photography

Something I never thought I’d have the guts to do. It also doesn’t hurt that I worked with one of the most amazing photographers EVER. (Seriously, the bomb – check Heather out here).

As I am lucky enough to have an extended sisterhood that includes many beautiful women (I mean this in the truest sense of the word), I have been cheered on by every humbling reminder that I am making them proud and even inspiring a few.

I hope you’re having a beautiful Tuesday.

~ Toni