5 Exercises you can do at HOME Exercise #4

Exercise #4 Hip Extensions

Benefits

Also a great calorie burner, this exercise targets the butt and hamstrings. Not only will they lift and tone your butt, they’ll also help you perform the first 3 exercises much better. The problem is, the average desk-chained individual sits so frequently that the muscles in their butt literally shut off. Over time, injuries occur in the low back, knees and even the ankles to name a few.

Progressions

Instead of using two legs, perform the exercise with one or even add weight to your waist.

Another effective progression is to hold the squeeze for a set amount of time (ideally 30 secs+).

Counter Stretch: Pigeon Pose

Pair this exercise up with a pigeon pose to loosen up the backside of your hip and promote more blood flow to the area worked. Got back pain? Inactive/tight glutes usually contribute to the stiff back that you’ve been experiencing.

Written by Jay Agustin, edited by lifefitwork

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5 Exercises you can do at HOME Exercise #3

Exercise #3 Squat

Benefits

The squat targets one of the biggest muscle groups allowing for optimal calorie burn. Believe it or not, they will also contribute to your fat loss not only in the legs, but also everywhere else in the body (yes, even that spare tire around the waist!)

Progressions

To make the squat more challenging, add weight, speed up your reps, or even add a jump.

Counter Stretch: Runner’s Lunge

Pair this exercise up with a runner’s lunge (link includes other helpful stretches as well) and save yourself from the tight hips you’re most likely suffering from. As an added bonus, they’ll help you squat even deeper over time.

Written by Jay Agustin, edited by lifefitwork

Wake up & Smell the Coconuts!

Remember our talk about Coconut Oil? Well, after a few failed attempts I’ve finally found my all-time favourite recipe to use it in! Try it out and let me know what you think!

*Note: If you’re allergic to peanuts I am so sorry, because you are REALLY missing out. But, try substituting with another nut butter or nut substitute.

PB&C Smoothie

Step 1: Combine

Step 1: Combine

Step 2: Blend

Step 2: Blend

Ingredients

2 tbsp. Organic Peanut Butter

½ Cup Almond Milk (or milk of your choice)

1 Ripe Banana (for a thicker smoothie use frozen)

2 tbsp. Greek Yogurt

4-5 Ice cubes

1 tsp. Coconut Oil (Solid at room temperature)

Combine all ingredients in a blender & blend until smooth.

                                                                                                   Simple, delicious & hearty! I’ll have this smoothie in the morning and it will keep me going straight through until lunchtime. The coconut oil acts a natural sweetener to counteract the strong nutty taste from the organic peanut butter, while elegantly complementing the banana flavour. Still too cold for a smoothie in the morning? Save this for a replenishing post-workout snack! #lifefitwork

Time for a Takeover!

Move over Kale! There’s a new celeb in town and Coconut Oil is her name.

Oil of the Gods

Oil of the Gods

 Truthfully, I’m probably late to jump on the Coconut Oil bandwagon but it’s still new to me so I’m sticking to it. There’s no surprise that a lot of us suffer from dry skin in the bitter winter months and my mom recently told me about her new cure, Coconut Oil. She had recently been on a trip with my Aunt and they treated themselves to a complete spa-day, with facial included. What they learned during their facial was that coconut oil is what many claim to be the best natural moisturizer out there. Their esthetician even claimed to say that she has ditched buying regular moisturizers and strictly uses coconut oil!

I wasn’t sold yet. But I am a very firm believer in the mantra don’t knock it ‘till ya try it.

So, I bought myself some coconut oil (available at most retail grocery stores) and have started using it as a hand cream. And I am happy to report that as a moisturizer it definitely seems to be working (goodbye dry, cracked, winter knuckles!)

BUT, that’s not the only thing it’s good for. The jar itself claims coconut oil is “Ideal high-heat cooking oil, delicious for baking, in bread, on vegetables, or popcorn”. Sounds too good to be true, right? So of course, I had to try it.

Let me tell you, I have NOT been disappointed. I’ve started to use coconut oil as a substitute for olive oil when cooking with vegetables (mushrooms especially) and they are delicious! I find the hint of coconut really helps to bring out the natural flavours of the veggies I’m cooking with. Of course after I started using Coconut Oil myself I went online and found about a bijillion ways to use it! Some of my faves can be found here by well+good (one of my all-time favourite blogs fyi).

Moral of the story? Always ALWAYS listen to your mother. And stay tuned, I’ll be showcasing some of my own favourite recipes using Coconut Oil soon! #lifefitwork

Back to my Roots

Although my studies and career have taken a completely different turn over the last few years, I feel compelled to return to my educational roots in psychology. (If only, to solidify in my mind that yes, the money spent on my degree was worth it!)

As a psychology student I’ve studied many theories that have been used to explain why, how and when we do the things we do. From Sigmund Freud, B.F. Skinner to Abraham Maslow, all have strived to define our thoughts and actions. A theory that has stuck with me since undergrad is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which continues to be used to help explain what motivates behaviour. His hierarchy “suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs” as described by Kerry Cherry. Meaning, we all have basic needs (food, water, sleep etc.) that we need to satisfy before we’re able to tackle the “outer” or secondary needs (love, social acceptance, security etc.). Take a look at the diagram below, this is from my personal psychology student archives circa 2011. (Truthfully, I think this was more along the lines of the i’m so tired of studying so I will draw this little doodle that’s somehow related so I can convince myself this is still “studying”)

Archived from pages and pages of study notes (I am no artist, I know).

Archived from pages and pages of study notes (I am no artist, I know).

But it makes sense right? You can apply that theory to almost anything. When you’re building a house, what do you do first? You build from the bottom up, (floor, walls then a roof) not the other way ‘round!

So why am I telling you this? Because I’m hoping to shift your focus back to the basics! Forget about today’s “it” vegetable or fad diet or whether or not you should do yoga everyday (but actually, yoga is great and MJ makes it look SUPER cool). Now hear me out – I’m not knocking any of these things but it’s important to establish your baseline. Figure out what it is your body truly needs and expand from there. What I mean is, you don’t NEED the gluten free, dairy-free, soy-based vegan whaddayacallit anymore then you need the 3-egg veggie omelet with toast, hashbrowns, bacon/sausage with pancake on the side for breakfast. Fuel yourself for the day with the carbs/proteins you need and don’t overdo it.

Once you’ve established those basic needs then you can work on incorporating the secondary, or “hip” healthy suggestions. But remember, they are exactly that, SUGGESTIONS. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to work for you.

Now go re-build your house and #lifefitwork

Glass or Plastic?

Remember those tips we talked about when doing your grocery shop? Now you have all of these lovely fresh fruits, vegetables and protein you can use to whip up some healthy meals and quick snacks. One of my favourite meals to make and enjoy in the winter is homemade beef stew with dumplings (my mother is not quite ready to share her secret recipe but here is one from English chef James Martin). The great thing about stew is that you can really make it your own and add all kinds of  vegetables you like rather than the standard carrot/potato combination. The only problem I find with making stew is that most recipes make multiple portions and me, myself & I can’t eat it quick enough! I try my best not to waste any food so I will either pass it off to friends and family or freeze it to eat at a later date. Here’s the question, are you team Glass or Plastic? In the last 5-10 years we have heard a lot about “BPA-free” bottles and containers but is plastic really the villain the media has made him out to be? As a user of both types of containers I’ve compared them to see who ranks best;

Glass VS. Plastic

Glass VS. Plastic

                       Glass

VS.

Plastic

Dishwasher safe & residue or stains are easily removed.

Cleanliness

Can stain permanently & dishwasher leaves residue, which often results in an added hand wash.

Heavy

Portability

Light

4-sided snap lid or rubber lid provides an air tight seal.

Closure/Lid

I find plastic containers leak more often, so if transporting soup etc. I would keep upright and place in a Ziploc bag.

Food flavour will not leach and will protect the shelf-life of food.

Food Safety

Even BPA free plastic can leach into food, can absorb smells and alter taste.

100% recyclable

Environmental Safety

There are 7 types of plastic and some are not recyclable, causing further waste if they can’t be re-purposed.

Oven proof, freezer-safe, microwave-safe, dishwasher safe

Versatility

Freezer safe, microwave safe but quality decreases after each use (down-cycling).

More expensive, but most durable.

Price

Less expensive, but not as durable so you will likely spend more on purchasing additional containers.

Conclusion: Team Glass outranks plastic overall. However, plastic can still serve a storage purpose as long as you are not cooking or freezing in them. If you’re still not comfortable using plastic, try to repurpose them and get the most out of your money spent. Use as storage containers for hardware, arts & crafts or to organize those “miscellaneous” drawers. Real simple created a fantastic “Best for Leftovers” list combining both plastic & glass containers with tips on when is best to use them.

Keep yourself healthy & safe with glass containers and don’t be afraid of the added weight. The bonus? You’ll be weight-lifting on the go! #lifefitwork

Let’s Get Personal

Now that I’ve covered some ground with lifefitwork, it occurred to me that you may be wondering where I am getting all of my topics and ‘expertise’ from. If you’ve taken a look at my About page you already know that I’m not a personal trainer & not a nutritionist, so what gives me the right to talk about “healthy living”? Really, I’m simply a self-proclaimed ‘expert’ in the subject not because I’ve studied the science behind it, but because I’ve lived it. Allow me to re-introduce myself and let’s get personal.

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Some muddy Tough Mudders

I am competitive. Always have been and always will be. Growing up with a brother 4 years my senior meant that I had a constant competitor and I loved it! I used to trail Chris and his friends around everywhere they went and I was insistent that anything they could do, I could do better. Most of the time I was able to live up to my self-expectations with one exception, the amusement park height marker always got the best of me. I know people always say they’re competitive, but seriously, I’ve been known to take it to the next level.

Like this one time when I was spending a week at choir camp, (yes, this exists) I was told by the cute camp counselor that I couldn’t eat one of the hot jalapeno peppers he had grown himself. The fact that none of his early-twenties-aged friends would do it should have been a red flag. But alas, the 12 year-old (going on 18) me, said “Ha! Just watch me” and I gobbled it down. The utter disbelief that crossed their faces was almost worth the sheer pain I experienced as a result of eating an entire jalapeno pepper. Note: I come from a very British family, spice is not in our vocabulary. Did I let them see my discomfort? Absolutely not. I sat in the dining hall eating bread and milk and didn’t utter a word of complaint. And heck yes I was satisfied. My prize? Instead of fruit for dessert I was given an ice cream bar and was later serenaded with a guitar rendition of Oasis – “Wonderwall” by that same cute counselor who told me I couldn’t eat the pepper.

This inner drive to compete carried me all the way through my childhood and high school career. However, was most apparent in the realm of sports and physical activity.

Where's Sarah? The keen one with her shirt properly tucked in!

Where’s Sarah? The keen one with her shirt properly tucked in!

Name a sports team in elementary school and I was on it. Discus throw included. And to be a competitor, you had to put in hard work to be healthy & fit. As much fun as it was, there was also a lot of discipline involved. Much of this discipline I attribute to my Dad, John. As a child, if my brother or I left our dishes out or didn’t clean our rooms etc. our punishment would be a mandatory set of 25 push-ups. No joke. John is not ex-military and his father didn’t use those tactics on him, but it was his way of trying to use push-ups as a deterrent/punishment. Little did he know, it was working to create a habit of healthy activity that I have taken and applied to daily life.

Eventually I realized that I couldn’t be “the best” at every sport under the sun and narrowed my expertise to one discipline; dance (yes, it’s a SPORT).

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DalDance Competitive Piece

This is where most of my education in health and fitness blossomed. As a dancer, you have to be so aware of your body and the muscles needed to shape the way you want to move. In many sports there is a ball or tool used to compete but in dance, you are the ball. You are the only thing stopping you from winning or losing so it’s in your best interest to be finely tuned. That being said, in a dance class it is glaringly obvious when you are not looking or doing your best, there are mirrors EVERYWHERE. Because I spent so much time looking at myself in the mirror, I learned a lot about my diet and how it affects my bodies’ performance. I started listening in, and noticed I reacted differently to certain foods depending on when, what and how I ate. I didn’t realize how much I had learned about myself until well into my University days when I finally had what Oprah likes to call my own “ah-ha moment”. But let me tell you, after 20 years as a dancer I have learned a LOT about my personal diet and fitness.

This realization, coupled with my natural drive to succeed in a physical landscape is how I’ve come to conclude that yes, I can be a voice for healthy living. Whether or not you like, love, or hate being physically active or eating your veggies there is still a way for anyone to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. This is the notion I hope I can instill with my readers and guide you to understand what works best for you. I think the most important thing to take from my experiences and this blog entirely, is that there is no overnight solution, or a wrong or right way to achieve a healthy lifestyle. You have to want it, you have to commit yourself to doing it and you have to put in the work.

So now you know a little bit about where I’m coming from and how I got here. But I will ask one thing of you, no, beg of you; don’t dare me to do something. Although I have a better handle on it these days, I will forever have the urge to try any kind of challenge you throw my way! #lifefitwork

“A B C it’s easy as 1 2 3”

Take a note from the late Michael Jackson and let’s begin. The most time consuming exercise you’ll have to do all week, but once it’s done? You’re coasting! Consider this the biggest test of your organizational skills. Here are 5 easy steps for a successful (and healthy) grocery shop;

  1. Make a list. I prefer to write mine down (yes, the trusted duo, pen & paper!) or you can type it on your phone, send yourself an email etc. whatever works best for you. Appdicted? Sign up in store at any Loblaws and try the PC Plus mobile app. You can create a shopping list, set preferences and save money on groceries! (P.S. I don’t work for Loblaws, I just really really dig this app!)
  2. STICK to the list. Meaning, if it’s not on your pre-set list, take it out of the basket! Not only will this keep you focused on the task at hand but you’ll save a buck or two at the same time.
  3. Outer GTA is your best friend. No, I don’t mean go to Mississauga for groceries. The majority of your shop should take place around the outer aisles/areas of the store. This is where you’ll find all the yummy fresh eats you need, rather than the quick-fix packaged goods you think you want.
  4. Buy what you like, not what you think you should like. Kale is the new black these days, but if you don’t like kale, don’t buy kale! If you are putting items on a list that you know you or your family will not touch, what’s the point? Buy the foods you’ll want to eat and half the battle is already done!
  5. Change with the seasons. You wouldn’t wear a winter jacket in the summer, so you shouldn’t eat the same produce month-to-month either. I know you can get all kinds of produce year-round these days but seasonal fruits and vegetables will contain a higher nutrient value. Not to mention, you’ll be supporting your local Canadian farmers! (Good karma? Check.)

This may seem like a little extra work now, but after a few focused trips, you won’t even know you’re doing it. Establish the habit and change the way you shop.

I challenge you to apply these steps to your next grocery shop. Leave a comment or tweet @sarahkcopes and let me know how you’re getting on!

Not sure where to start? See my list this week below for some inspiration.

Happy shopping! #lifefitwork

This week’s list

Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat.

Sounds familiar right? If only it were that simple…

Embed from Getty Images

In 2015, it should read more like this: Sleep, check Twitter, Weather app, Facebook, eat, work, check Twitter, LinkedIn, send some emails, check Instragram, buy lunch for the 4th time this week, work, grocery shop, check Twitter, do that thing you’ve been putting off for weeks but procrastinate and say it can wait because all you really want to do is go home and watch Netflix, check Twitter, Instagram, ask your friend why she commented on your IG picture but didn’t like it, maybe go to the gym but probably not, definitely do that assignment due tomorrow but get lost for an hour on Pinterest, eat, check Twitter & Instagram one last time, run through everything you didn’t do today in your head and decide tomorrow will be the day when you get ‘er done, and finally, sleep. 

Stay. Calm. 

So how do we manage all of that AND keep ourselves healthy? We’re told time and time again, to eat this, take that, have a pill, do this exercise and you will live a long healthy, happy skinny life filled with rainbows and sparkles and… a couple of weeks later you’re ordering take out from the guy at the Thai restaurant that knows you by name. But, what I’ve come to learn over my years of working multiple jobs, going to school, volunteering, staying fit, still having a social life (somehow), all at the same time – is that a little organization goes a long way (yes, this is the OCD talking).

Let’s look at this from a business perspective, (because I’m a banker, you know) what makes any business, government or event a success? The ability to plan, organize and execute. Over the next few weeks I have set out to explore and share simple, but effective ways you can reach that balance of LIFEFITWORK. Note: This doesn’t mean wake up at 5am to go to the gym before work, start a juice cleanse and buy that $16 dairy/gluten free breakfast, lunch & dinner. It means changing a little, and getting a LOT in return.

I take your Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat. and raise you to #lifefitwork !