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Nutrition and lifestyle

We all may be tempted to snack right now, so asked our fitness staff for some nutritional recipes, tips and information on the latest trends and research for healthy, active living.

By: Sophie Byfield, Certified Precision Nutrition, Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer

Nutrition is an essential part of leading a healthy lifestyle. What you eat pre and post-workout can impact your energy levels, recovery time, and the amount of muscle you build.

Most health and fitness participants can meet their workout and recovery needs by focusing on portion sizes and balanced meals. However, if you’re workouts are long or intense or you’re trying to gain muscle, then assessing your pre and post-workout nutrition can make a difference.

Your pre-workout meals should have a mix of simple carbohydrates and protein. It should be eaten one to three hours before your workout. Some great pre-workout snacks are fruit with nut butter or Greek yogurt.

The goal of post-workout nutrition is to repair, replenish, and recover the body. You should aim to eat a meal with a mix of carbohydrates and protein within one to two hours of your workout.

If you don’t have time for a full meal, a simple protein shake will do. Most importantly, skipping your pre and post-workout meals won’t save you on calories but will increase your energy and fuel your results.

By: Sophie Byfield – Certified Precision Nutrition, Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer

It was 4:00 pm Wednesday afternoon, my stomach was grumbling and I had absolutely no idea and what was I going to cook for dinner.  I stopped at the grocery store with good intentions but ended up over budget with a random combination of basics, spices, and snacks.  Maybe I’ll just eat out!

Have you been here before?

This was the moment I decided enough was enough; I had to make a change and start shopping with a purpose and a plan.  There were a few bumps in the road, but once I established a routine, grocery shopping became a breeze.  I now spend less time in the store, less money on food and it’s much easier to make healthy meals at home.

Here are 4 tips to help you shop like a pro:

  1. Master your regular meals. Create a list of your family’s favourite meals to ensure you have all ingredients in the fridge and pantry.  This takes the guesswork out of meal planning and reduces extra trips out.  Once you have a list of ingredients for your top 10 meals, keep it handy to pull out when it’s time to shop and prep.

 Pro tip – Have a minimum of 10 meals you can rotate through.  Avoid boredom by changing your protein, like switching chicken or fish instead of beef for tacos.

  1. Build your meal plan. First, pick a specific day to set and plan dinners for the coming week.  Then choose 4 of your regular meals, making sure you add necessary ingredients for these to your shopping list.  Next, find 2-3 new recipes you would like to try.  Google, Pinterest and Instagram offer lots of inspiration.  Add these new ingredients to the shopping list.  This will help you gradually build variety to your diet and your cooking repertoire.

Pro Tip – Look for meals you can double for lunches or to freeze.

  1. Don’t forget breakfast. Keep a list of regular breakfast ingredients to reduce extra trips out and ensure you always have healthy options to start your day.  Double-check this list each time you shop.

 Pro tip – Keep healthy options on hand that are quick and easy when you run short on time in the mornings.  This could include boiled eggs, make-ahead oat muffins or smoothie ingredients.

  1. Set a day. Find one regular day and time that works best for your schedule.  Routines make it easier to maintain healthy habits.

Pro tip – Think of your shopping day as a meeting with your boss!  Make sure you keep that meeting and show up prepared.

Create a habit of keeping a runny tally of groceries you need using paper, a whiteboard or app; wherever it’s most convenient to note items as soon as you run out. This saves time creating your weekly list, gives you the opportunity to identify items you may find on sale and sets you up to grocery shop like a pro!



By: Libby Norris – International Fitness Expert and Educator, Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer

Walking is the single most popular exercise for adults in Canada offering so many health and fitness benefits.  You can add to these results with simple exercises and drills that can vary the challenge and intensity.

There are only a few rules.  Many drills lead with one side, so do equal time on both.  Make sure surfaces and areas are level and safe.  Be sure to listen to your body and have a lot of fun!

  • Side shuffle. Facing side, step wide bringing the second foot in.  Keep it short and grounded or make it wider with a hop.
  • Criss-cross. Facing side, take steps alternating the rear foot stepping across the front and then behind.
  • Curb walks. Walk with one foot up on a curb.  Keep grounded or add more of a push or hop if you like.
  • Lunge walks. Step and plant front foot then slowly drop the rear knee downward.  Keep the front knee over heel and your head over hips.  It’s like you’re walking in slow motion with a greater range.
  • Agility drill. Walk or jog taking the feet out wide and then in as though you were running through hoops or tires.
  • Push-ups. Stop and use a bench, railing or step as an elevated surface to do push-ups.  Keep hands at chest level and vary range as needed.
  • Dips. Sitting on a bench or step, place hands beside your hips with elbows pointing back.  Lift yourself forward just in front, keeping your torso long with the head above hips.  Dip down and up, varying range as needed.

Add these throughout your walk or at the end counting repetitions or for a set time.  Start off easy, gradually increasing your time and intensity using comfortable but challenging as your guide.



By: Libby Norris – International Fitness Expert and Educator, Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer

Gardening is a terrific hobby for so many reasons.  It supports our environment, gets you out into the fresh air and reduces stress.

Did you know that gardening can also be a challenging workout?  You may be surprised to hear that gardening can result in a number of “sport-specific” injuries.  Gardeners can work for hours at a time which requires endurance, strength, and flexibility.  And, like many sports, it tends to be dominant on one side which can create muscle imbalance, increasing the risk of injury.

Here are 4 simple tips to help you enjoy your horticulture hobby injury free!

  1. Warm-up. Take a brisk walk, climb steps or do the movement on the spot for 5-10 min. to lubricate joints and increase blood flow and oxygen.
  2. Take a timer. Use a kitchen timer, watch or phone and set for 30 minutes.  Stand up, move around to give your body a break.
  3. Hydrate. Sip water regularly.  Keep it in an insulated container or out of the sun.
  4. Stretch it out. Take 5-10 min. after your session to stretch since muscles contract and shorten while you’re working.

An easy way to choose stretches:  do the opposite movement of your activity.  So if you bend forward to pull weeds, lean back and open your arms; if you’re squatting down and reaching right, stand up and lean over to the left.

Take the time to prepare and recover and enjoy your summer gardening.

Fun fact:  Gardening is the 2nd most popular form of exercise in Canada, attracting 48% of Canadian adults and only second to walking!




By: Libby Norris – International Fitness Expert and Educator, Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer & Michelle Kerr –  Certified Fitness Instructor, Cycle and Yoga

For decades it was believed that once you reached adulthood, the brain only lost neurons. We now know that, even in old age, the brain still produces about 700 new neurons per day. You can increase that daily average through a process of creating newborn cells or neurogenesis. You can also rewire your brain through new learning and experience, called neuroplasticity. In addition, exercise can help support both of these brain strengthening processes.

Exercise acts like a fertilizer. It turns out that exercise nurtures new neurons in the hippocampus which improves memory. Exercise increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which act like a fertilizer to promote the growth, functioning and survival of the newborn cells.

Newborn neurons fit together like the pieces of a puzzle, where each neuron represents a different aspect of a memory. If we have more of these neurons, we can create memories rich in detail with less room for error. You’ll remember if you took your medication yesterday or where you parked your car in a busy lot.

Aerobic activity expands networks. Aerobic exercise elevates neurotransmitters, creates new blood vessels that pipe in growth factors, and spawns new cells. Complex activities put all that material to use by strengthening and expanding networks.

Coordination improves thinking. Including activities that require coordination, like dancing or pickleball, is also beneficial. Although these impact the brain differently than aerobic exercise, they work in a coordinated way with direct connections between movement and cognitive function.

Balance promotes plasticity. Exercises that target balance skills like Yoga, Tai Chi and walking, engage nerve cells throughout the brain and improve plasticity.

Exercise leaves our bodies and minds stronger, more resilient, better equipped to handle challenges, think on our feet and adapt more easily. The best news yet it that research shows it’s never too late to start and that all efforts count.

By: Jessica Auyeung – Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer

Freezing fresh food can help prolong the shelf-life of many products, reduce food waste and cut back on multiple grocery store trips. Here are a few tips for storing food in the freezer and saving nutrients:

  1. Blanch fresh vegetables first. Vegetables freeze better blanched first in boiling water. This prevents the oxidizing enzyme reactions that cause them to turn brown. Blanching also helps clean vegetables prior to freezing them. To blanch vegetables, boil in water for about 2 minutes and follow with an ice bath. Pat dry, cool and then pop them into the freezer. Green beans, broccoli, onions, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, peppers, carrots, corn, zucchini, squash and dark leafy greens freeze well this way.
  2. Freeze fruits in a single layer on a baking sheet. Berries and stone fruits freeze well. Wash and dry fruits thoroughly before cutting and freezing. Line slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid to prevent them from sticking together. Transfer to a freezer bag or sealed container.
  3. Slice bread before freezing. Pre-slicing the loaf of bread before freezing allows you to quickly take out what you need from the freezer and pop them into the toaster. No defrosting necessary.
  4. Freeze yogurt in ice cube trays. Yogurt can be frozen in ice cube trays or in the original container. Freezing in ice cube trays makes it easy to use for smoothies.
  5. Freeze raw meat, not cooked meat. Portion raw meat into single or meal-sized servings for easy dinner prep. Never refreeze meat that has been defrosted as it is more likely to contain bacteria. Cooked meat doesn’t freeze well as defrosting can often degrade the texture.



By: Michelle Kerr –  Certified Fitness Instructor, Cycle and Yoga

The pelvic floor is like a round trampoline of muscle that can move up and down. These muscles stretch from the tailbone to the public bone front to back and then from one sitting bone to another side to side. They are normally firm and thick and are involved in the following:

  • provide support to the organs that lie on it
  • help to control release from the bladder and bowels
  • work with abdominal and back muscles to stabilize and support the spine
  • provide support for a baby during pregnancy
  • assist in the birthing process

Like all muscles, the pelvic floor works best in balance. They can become too tight, but we most often hear about issues from loose or weak muscles. Although we primarily associate pelvic floor with women, everyone does have this muscle structure. Common causes for pelvic floor dysfunction include:

  • pregnancy, childbirth and multiple births
  • large babies and perineal tearing
  • straining on the toilet
  • chronic coughing
  • High impact exercise
  • Obesity
  • Heavy lifting
  • Age-related weakness

When someone has loose and weak pelvic floor muscles, it can result in uncomfortable, embarrassing and life-limiting symptoms. These include low back pain, urinary issues and muscle spasms. Bladder leaks can make it impossible to participate in activities you enjoy and create issues when you cough, sneeze or laugh.

Although the pelvic floor is hidden from view, you can consciously control it which means you can train it just like any other muscle. Try adding the following exercises into your routine:

Squats – Stand with feet flat on floor hip to shoulder width apart; bend knees shifting hips down and back like sitting in a chair. As you press back up, focus on squeezing buttocks and pelvic floor as though stopping urine flow.

Bridge – Lie on floor with knees bent, feet close to hips. Lift and lower hips slowly keeping shoulders relaxed.

Bird Dog – Kneel on all fours, bracing abdominals. Reach one hand forward and the

By: Jessica Auyeung – Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer

Like many of you, my living room has become my go-to fitness studio. Living in a small condo, however, I don’t have much extra space for a home gym or much of the equipment I typically use at the gym. Here is a list of some low-cost fitness equipment I use that doesn’t take a lot of space and can be easily stored away after use.

  1. Yoga mat. Even if you’re not into yoga, this works well to provide some extra cushioning and can prevent sliding around on hard surfaces. It’s easily rolled and stored anywhere.
  2. Adjustable dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells allow you the flexibility to select different weights that fit your needs for different exercises. They are also more space efficient and safer than having multiple dumbbells lying around.
  3. Skipping rope. Skipping is an effective cardio and endurance workout. It is cheap and portable and can help you work on balance, coordination and agility while challenging your heart!
  4. Resistance tubing/strength bands. Resistance bands take up very little space and can offer a different type of resistance than dumbbells. They are also excellent portable workout tools, so they are an excellent investment for working out at home and for future travel.
  5. Foam roller. The foam roller is a great tool for active release and recovery. There are mini versions that are easy to store and provides the same self-massage benefits.
  6. Glider/washcloth/paper plates. Gliders are used in gyms and fitness classes to add stability and balance challenge to many exercises like lunges, planks and skater slides. You can make your own at home! On a hard surface, you can use washcloths or towels. On carpet, you can use paper plates.