The War on Sugar-AHHHHHH By Guest Bloggers, Leigh and Meg

IMG_0896-737x735Our guests this week are Leigh and Meg from the popular motherhood blog, Me and Meg. Leigh and Meg blog about ups and downs of motherhood with just the right amount of snark. They are witty, humble and kick-ass at Cross Fit (and other fitness-y things!). Think you’ve heard of them? I wouldn’t be surprised because they are contributors to Global Morning Show, Parentdish.ca and “What She Said” Canada Talks on SiriusXM Radio.

Thank you ladies for giving us your two cents on this topical issue.

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The War on sugar is real! We fight it daily with our kids. Our war consists mainly of our kids asking for some sugar-laden snack and us saying “no”.  We are very conscious of how much they consumer daily. That means water is what you can find in their bottles always and they rarely get anything at the arena snack bar – we are real drags as mothers.

It doesn’t stop at sugar, what about preservatives! There is a whole world of bad food out there worth avoiding….

What we have seen happen in our children’s school is an increase use of candy as a reward in class, quite the opposite of a sugar ban.

With so many “fads”  one can prescribe to now and ever-changing research on the food industry it’s difficult to say what is the right choice or the “most” healthy for our children – just ask a vegetarian or talk to someone who adheres to a paleo diet. Could you find a larger chasm in what is nutritional and optimal for our health than that? Recently we read that it’s not sugar itself that is the nasty school yard
bully but sugar and fat TOGETHER. Right okay. Like ice cream, give us some. Our kids go crazy over it too. Do we think it’s bad for their overall health? No.

Do we think a world where schools do not allow sugar is the right choice? No, that’s ludicrous. The path to a healthy lifestyle involves moderation, which means having the odd juice box, and treat. We are better off teaching our kids what healthy choices are and empowering them to make well-balanced decisions.

The schools should focus on a holistic approach to health, remember getting changed for gym class? We do. Our kids don’t do that. Let’s bring back physical activity EVERYDAY in our schools and not make any one food forbidden.

As for the  birthday treats at school-we say skip those too.

Loving Low-Sugar, Healthy Practices at School

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I was talking with two friends a few months ago about their children’s schools and they said that overall they were happy with them.  Then one woman added:  “Except for all the candy.”

What candy?  She explained that between the children’s birthdays, holiday celebrations, special events, bake sales, fundraisers, and teacher rewards, the kids eat candy at school all the time.  Neither of these women restrict sugar much with their kids; in comparison I’m basically the Sugar Police.  For them to complain means that their kids are getting a lot of it.

I’ve been sheltered from this.  My kids go to an alternative school where there is, for the most part, a shared understanding around treats and sugar.  There is an emphasis on what I think are very healthy snacks for most in-class events, which overall means low or no sugar, fruit-based, often gluten-free, often organic treats.  In this world, I am not at all the Sugar Police.  There’s no perfect unity – some teachers specify that they want no sugar, but most don’t say this; one parent’s candy kebabs were rejected (with offence) at a bake sale; another complained that the Toronto District School Board food and beverage policy should be followed more closely (ie. restrictively).

(Yes, the school board actually has a healthy food policy.  It doesn’t apply to food offered at school free of charge, which would include all the in-class birthdays and celebrations, but the fact that it exists could provide some needed guidelines about what is acceptable.  It rules out a lot of junk food and candy.  Incidentally I disagree with some of it – the sugar, fat, and fibre requirements means many home-baked goods are not acceptable, while non-fat store-bought processed treats would be.  I’d rather sink my teeth into a good homemade muffin any day.)

Where do I personally stand on all of this?  Usually if I need to bring something healthy, it’s fruit kebabs or home-flavoured popcorn.  For bake sales and special school events that are exempt from the food and beverage policy, I usually bring more traditional treats like cookies or brownies or pie (made with flour and sugar, but not piles of icing).  I like baking, and I think occasional treats are a beautiful thing.

But I am plain relieved to be at a school where candy and sugar are not the norm simply because it isn’t healthy, and for most people, it’s difficult to resist.  Fat, dairy, gluten – even alcohol and caffeine have their proponents who assert health benefits under certain circumstances – but there really are none for sugar.

My kids and I talk about food a lot at home, and I agree that what happens at home matters more than what happens at school.  At the same time, our aspirations at home are made infinitely more reachable with a supportive surrounding community.  When my son comes home on November 1 and complains that all of the kids have Hallowe’en treats at lunch except for him, I can ask, with some confidence, how many children he is talking about.  The answer is invariably one or two, and my child realizes, without me saying much, that he is not alone and he feels more settled than if the answer were 20.  (As do I; I don’t want my children to feel like social outsiders, and the need to belong is strong and important.)  Then we can have a treat at home or not, depending on what works for us, but we aren’t pushed along by a social wave to eat in ways that not only aren’t good for us, but that we’re not truly choosing.

What the debate on sugar at schools tells me is that there is no common culture of food in the society I live in, so people find themselves having to create their own and yet really hunger for a like-minded community.  I empathize with this and I’ve probably come to take for granted some of the things I don’t have to deal with at my kids’ school.  While I would prefer that the cafeteria not sell chocolate milk or that packaged cookies not come with the monthly pizza lunch, it’s easier for me to roll with it because it’s not the norm in my kids’ school experience.  If it were, I would consider it a detriment to my children’s health and would support efforts to change it.

There are many influential people in this camp, but I have to mention Jamie Oliver – have you heard impassioned Ted Talk/plea called “Teach Every Child About Food”?  His thoughts on chocolate milk at school are quite hard-hitting and provoking.

Do you have any food for thought for me?  I think about food quite a bit, and always want to learn more.

 

Banning Sugar In Schools Doesn’t Teach Healthy Habits

Not that long ago there was some discussion at the neighbourhood school my boys attend, how to greatly reduce the amount of sugar the students were consuming while on the premises.

A naturopathic doctor, also a parent to two young boys, gave a compelling presentation about the health and behaviour benefits to cutting back the white stuff, and successfully riled up the parent population with suggested action items.

I don’t know much, but I do know this: one sure-fire way to ignite controversy and polarize a group is to change-up the status quo.

Back when I was a kid, we’d walk the ten minutes to school in the pouring rain toting our umbrellas and like a growing snowball collect kids along the way and after school we’d knock on doors, ride bikes and play a good old fashioned game of kick the can. Not really, but you get the picture. We weren’t developing carpel tunnel syndrome by age 12 and taking selfies to document every minute of teenage angst.

When I was growing up sugar wasn’t the evil, it was fat and cholesterol. A few spandex clad mothers could be heard espousing the benefits of the 20-minute work-out, Jane Fonda and the AB Roller while pouring a healthy dollop of Lite salad dressing over iceberg lettuce. Butter, eggs, oils, red meat, all of it was eschewed until the mid 90s when Barry Spears revolutionize the diet world with The Zone and all of a sudden steak and eggs reclaimed their clout in the grocery cart.

As a kid I enjoyed donuts, candies and cupcakes.   Mrs. Dickson used to make the best cupcakes, with lots of icing and sprinkles so when it was her son’s birthday and she came into the classroom, I made sure to not be the last in the line-up. When a French teacher would toss out mini-sized chocolate bars for correct answers, we’d know that she was in a good mood and Mr. MacDonald used to let us pop balloons for prizes: a weekend with the class budgie, an afternoon in his chair, giant, over-sized chocolate bars our parents would never buy.

I used to peddle my bike to the corner store (about 15 minutes away and across a busy intersection) with my friends. We’d return our books to the library and then go the Village Market, to see how many Hot Lips and sour keys our change could buy us. A lot more than today’s pennies, that’s for sure.

But now I am a grown-up and I am the one making the decisions.

Do you want to know something? My shoulders are sore from the burden of expectations.

I have come a long way with not caring what people think about my parenting. The proof is in the pudding, I like to say, and I am playing the long game. I don’t always choose the healthiest or freshest or more local foods for my kids. In fact, last night they ate an entire party-sized pizza while they watched TV, and I basically ignored them to read the latest issue of Vanity Fair.

We have a treat bucket overflowing with candy and there it stays. My boys choose something from it once a day, but they could take it or leave it.   Sunday afternoons I bake something – cookies, brownies, macaroons, Hello Dollies – whatever the request but after the initial fanfare that accompanies the trays being pulled from the oven, the cookies will remain in the jar. Nibbled on, but never gorged. The piano teacher, friends popping by and play date guests are usually the ones to grab at the goods. For my kids, it’s part of the landscape, like the wallpaper. It’s just there.

Have you heard of Snowplow Parenting? If Helicopter parent was the term of yesteryear, then Snowplow parent is the term for now.

Snowplow parents: defined by some of the extremes they take in their children’s lives. When you take the snowplow route, you are teaching your child that someone will always step in to make things right, and therefore no initiative is required on the kid’s end.

That’s how I feel about removing sugar from schools. It doesn’t teach children how to make good choices it simply removes the obstacle for them. I am a believer that diets need to be balanced and healthy, and that includes sugar. It doesn’t mean scarfing down an entire box of Krispy Kremes (guilty!) on a regular basis but having a lollipop while watching a movie, is ok in my books.

It does get tricky in schools when parties and birthdays are celebrated with food, but that’s a learning opportunity in itself. Instead of banning sugary treats empower children with decision-making.  With parents and schools being more aware of and considerate of allergies, replacing birthday cupcakes for an non-edible treat (pencils, erasers, etc) is an obvious option.  There is also the option of a paper crown and singing Happy Birthday.  Simple.  But it’s about learning when and how to celebrate with treats.

It saddens me to see so many grown women (and some men) with unhealthy relationships with food, swinging from fad diet to fad diet, depriving themselves of food groups, binge eating; all of these behaviours leading to body image issues.

Here’s my question: With as much emphasis we’re placing on reducing sugar and getting our children active, why isn’t there more of an uproar over cut PE classes and revoked recesses (as punishment or to pack in more instructional time for core subjects)? Why do high school students only need one PE credit to graduate?

If I had things my way, we’d focus on healthy living where exercise is valued for more than just fitting into skinny jeans, where real food was consumed more than “fake food” and we would all chill out!

The Nanny State Will Not Solve the Sugar Crisis

Image source: Daily Telegraph

Image source: Daily Telegraph

I went to a school in England that provided milk as a morning snack every day.  Adorable, tiny glass bottles of milk.  Milk that was delivered early and sat unrefrigerated and sometimes went sour before we drank it.  Milk that you had to drink, to the last drop, whether you liked it or not.  Milk that would make your bones strong and give you energy.  Milk that made me gag and want to throw up.  I do not drink milk to this day.  (Unless it’s in a latte, and I’m pretty sure the coffee negates any goodness there.)

There is a teacher at my sons’ school who, at the beginning of the year, inspects all her students’ lunch boxes.  She does this in her classroom before the kids go down to eat lunch in the gym, even though she’s technically off duty for lunch.  She tells them what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, and she tells them that they are not allowed to bring certain foods again (sweetened yogurt and raisins and canned fruit and certain kinds of juice, in addition to the obvious chips and candy).  She means well, but she frightens them into submission, annoying a fair number of parents in the process.

Top-down, mandated menus for snacks and lunch are not the answer to the over-abundance of sugar in children’s diets or to promoting healthy eating.  The nanny state will only produce rebellious citizens, both adult and child.

Here’s what should happen:

  • Get kids to teach themselves (and their parents) good nutrition.  At the beginning of the year, a note should go home to parents from teachers saying that the kids and the school are working together to establish healthy eating habits.  The kids have learned in class how to build a balanced meal, they have a list of foods from each food group from which to choose, and they have a say in how to build the lunch.  They can grade their own lunches from poor to excellent, and the goal is to pack and eat excellent lunches in order to grow excellent learners.  Make age-appropriate lessons about the relative costs of fresh and processed food part of the curriculum.  Teach them why junk is so cheap and so plentiful.  It has to start with the kids, it has to be collaborative, and it has to have a pay-off.  It was kids who made our school’s litterless lunch policy.  I’m confident they could also lead the charge on ramping up the health value.  Who knows?  Parents may even be able to take one item off the to do list if the kids plan and pack their own lunches.  Let the kids tell their parents that the yogurt they think is healthy is actually full of sugar.  Trust them to make healthy choices and reward them with a gold star when they do.  Eventually, you won’t need the gold stars.

 

  • Add lots and lots and lots of extracurricular sports to the beginning of the school day.  Get kids to school an hour early to play soccer, run track, skip rope, dance, do yoga, run the bases or shoot hoops.  Give gym teachers the resources they need to offer those hours of exercise so that the kids can think better all day long.   Let them build up a real hunger and let them satisfy it with real food: an apple, say, and enough time at morning recess to eat it and play, too.  Study after study has shown that exercise makes for better thinking, but schools are cutting recess and gym times.  It defies logic.  When there’s no time to run around, sugar is not the only enemy.

 

  • Stop rushing kids through lunch.  My kids never finish their lunches and are often starving by the end of the day.  I don’t pack junk, but inevitably, it’s the “main course” that’s left in the lunch box at the end of the day because that’s what takes the longest to eat.  My kids will often get through the day on only the portions of fruit and veg that I pack because that’s what easiest to wolf down.  Hungry kids will make poor choices later in the day, but my kids don’t have time to eat even the healthy foods I pack because they are in such a rush to get outside to play.  They know that they feel better after having a really good run around the playground.  Honour that and give it to them without taking lunch time out of the play time allowance.

 

At Issue: Should Sugar Be Banned In Schools?

IMG_1436The war on sugar is full force. It seems impossible to turn on the news, stroll the supermarket or host a playdate without the topic of sugar rearing its head. In particular: kids’ consumption of sugar.

Recently a neighbourhood school has made a push to greatly reduce the amount of sugar permitted. Let’s face it, any time someone talks about banning, prohibiting, eliminating . . .people get feisty.

Efforts to reduce sugar in schools has been around for years, and in the case of a Georgia school, more than a decade. Proponents cite better overall health, fewer behavioural problems, and increased concentration to name just a few of the benefits. Principal of sugar-free pioneer school Browns Mill Elementary School said that within 6 months standardized test scores increased and behavioural incidents decreased. In time, students came to learn how to make good food choices and now broccoli is a favourite in the cafeteria. Advocates know that this is a huge undertaking – but they are playing the long game; quick to point out those efforts to reduce tobacco use in younger people has been successful over decades.

Nonetheless there are several opponents of the idea to limit sugar in schools, including researchers who report findings that suggest banning sugar in schools has little long term effect on a child’s overall sugar consumption and that changing attitudes in the home have a more lasting impact. In fact, Dr. John Sievenpiper says that negative messages like “don’t eat fat”, “don’t eat salt”, and “don’t eat sugar” may be doing more negative than good. He goes as far to blame the “don’t eat fat” message that was sweeping the nation in the 80s and 90s as one of the reasons for the current obesity epidemic. MaryAnn Tomovich, MS., RD agrees and believes that banning any specific food group creates a culture of fear and does nothing to ultimately educate our children. She, along with Dr. Michael Alderman, is a fan of the U diet: the basis being healthy, nutritious foods but allowing for some indulgences.

I am no health expert and my statistics grades will attest that a profession as a researcher is not in my future, but I do know parents. And I know how to quickly polarize a group of them.

So what do you think? Should schools ban all sugar? Are vending machines ok to get the heave-ho but school birthday cakes allowed? If a teacher gives out lollipops after a test or uses candies in a counting lesson, should they be reprimanded? Classroom parties: yay or nay in the presence of anything other than pretzels and veggie platters? What about fundraising? Fun Fairs? Bake sales? Is water the only acceptable beverage in the lunch bag?

Where is the line drawn and furthermore, who decides?

This week 4Mothers offers up our opinions and on Friday we’re joined by the dynamic duo Leigh and Meg of the blog Me and Meg.

As always we want to know that you think. What’s going on at your child’s school? Are you in favour of an all-out ban, gentle moderation or leaving it up to a parents to decide what is and isn’t too much sugar?

Join the conversation by leaving a comment on the blog, Facebook or Instagram.

For more reading:

(2014) Why Our Low-Fat, No-Sodium, Ban-Sugar Society May Be Making Us Fat

(2011) Banning Sugared Drinks in Schools Doesn’t Lower Student Consumption

(2011) Why Banning Foods In Schools Sends Kids the Wrong Message

(2008) 10 years later, school still sugar free and proud

 

 

Tried it: Barre3 By Guest Blogger Leigh from Me & Meg

Our guests this week are Leigh and Meg from the popular motherhood blog, Me and Meg. Leigh and Meg blog about ups and downs of motherhood with just the right amount of snark. They are witty, humble and kick-ass at Cross Fit. Think you’ve heard of them? I wouldn’t be surprised because they are contributors to Global Morning Show, Parentdish.ca and “What She Said” Canada Talks on SiriusXM Radio.

Thank you ladies for sharing your experience at Barre3.

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Meg and I have always loved exercising; that’s not to say that there hasn’t been times when we have totally lacked motivation or taken time off, we have. Our philosophy has always been simple: we were designed to move and we owe it to ourselves to do just that. It’s hard not get out of bed and workout when you think about what Rick Hansen and Terry Fox accomplished. Find someone who is doing a lot more with a lot less and suddenly your excuses melt away.

Meg and I both agree the key to keeping motivated is changing it up-and we don’t mean swapping the elliptical for the bike. We mean really shaking it up. We are both Crossfit and Olympic lifting coaches and that is something we consistently do. We love the variety of movements, and contrary to popular belief, it really is for everybody; our sixty year old mother does it!

We decided to start 2015 off by adding some new exercise disciplines into our repertoire. Enter Barre3. We are totally addicted. It’s like Yoga started dating a ballet dancer who also does Pilates. What do love most about it? First, the variety of workouts; by both the amount of time you have, and the part of the body you want to focus on. Meg and I love the Ballet Body Blast-who doesn’t want the long lines of a dancer? Second? You can do the workouts ANYWHERE. Between the mobile app and the on-line workouts you just can’t find an excuse not to do it.

imgresWe also appreciate the instructor’s pace and focus on integrity of movement, often times with at-home dvd’s there is not real instruction and you feel sort of lost, that’s not the case with the Barre3 on-line and mobile app workouts. If you live in the Toronto area, we recommend checking out the new Barre3 studio that opened. Aimee the owner, is a delight.

Our advice, cut some old t-shirts off, knot’em and rock some leg warmers. That’s what ballet dancers do right?

 

 

Life Lessons Learned on the Rock Wall

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My husband works at a big fitness club – there an indoor soccer field, indoor basketball courts, squash courts, three pools, lots and lots of fitness rooms and lots and lots of weights and machines to choose from.  There are spa facilities and a hair salon.  But my eyes were drawn from the beginning to the three story rock wall.

I don’t know why it’s taken me until now to give it a try.  Well, I guess I do…  Until recently, there’s been a baby attached to my hip or wrapped around my legs.  But probably more importantly, I’d never done it before and, unlike Beth-Anne who likes to try new things, I kind of resist them.  I’m not crazy about this tendency, so challenging myself to actually try that wall for none other than this blog became my mission over the holidays.

I went with my niece, an athletic 16 year old who had climbed before.  We had spent the entire day at the club, and she had played soccer for over two hours, and was then given a good workout on the squash court by my husband.  The day before she had spent skiing which, as a Californian, used her muscles in unusual ways.  This is all to explain that when she tried the rock wall of moderate difficulty, she got a fifth of the way up and had to let go.  Her legs were shaking; she simply could not go on.

My turn.  Unlike my niece, I had only gentle swum with my kids that day; however, also unlike her, I don’t have a teenage athletic body anymore.  We were climbing walls that did not require a lesson first, strapped in with a harness that gently bounces you to the ground if you slip.  Having never tried this before though, I discovered that I had trouble trusting the safety device would catch me if I fell.  Suddenly I feared heights where I hadn’t before.  With no advice before climbing, no experience, and ultimately, no confidence, I let go almost precisely at the spot my niece had and fell.

As it happens, the harness did work.

My attempt disappointed me.  It would have been quite alright to not get to the top (and when my husband tried, he fell at the same spot – it really was tricky) but my effort was not solid.

I gathered my wits.  Then, with the genuine encouragement of my niece and husband, I got in line for the beginner wall.

I think I was the only person above four and a half feet for this climb, but I ignored any prideful urgings and strapped myself in.  The climb was much easier than the other I tried, and I was comfortable enough to play around a bit with what movements worked.  I reached the top, and my husband boasted, with no hint of irony, that I sped by the nine year old to my left.

The question was whether to try something more.  There were two climbs at moderate difficulty.  I asked a boy there, who had obviously done these climbs many, many times (he looked like a little Spiderman scaling those walls), which of the two were harder.  He pointed to the one I hadn’t tried, and said he thought it might be slightly easier.

With no real aim except to make a better attempt, some minor success under my belt (ha), and more assurance in the harness, I tried again.  It was a much harder climb.  I think I was the most surprised of everyone when I actually made it to the top.

The accomplishment felt at least as much mental as physical and got me mulling, as I’m wont to do, about the broader significance of this singular experience.  I’ve since concluded that there are several useful life lessons to be learned from a rock wall.

1.  Confidence Matters.  

It’s not the only thing that matters, but my initial lack of confidence on the first climb was fatal to the effort.  If you don’t believe you can do something, you’re unlikely to manage it.

2.  The beginning is a good place to start.  

Sometimes I like to fancy myself a little more advanced than I am, a quick learner or something, who can maybe skip a step or two.  Occasionally this works, but oftentimes it doesn’t.  The beginner rock wall was not so physically challenging but I’m positive I would not have succeeded at the harder one had I not started at the beginning.  And experience can bolster belief to develop needed confidence (see above).

3.  There’s not much success without taking risks.  

At some points in the climb, I realized that I couldn’t find the next fingerhold or foothold not because I wasn’t looking properly, but because there wasn’t one.  The only way to continue at these junctures was to set my sights on my next best guess, and spring over to it and hope it would work. I had to let go without knowing what there was next to hold on to.   There was no going higher without taking the risk.

4.  Small things really matter.

I knew that rock climbing tests both agility and strength, but I didn’t realize the extent to success hinges on the smallest things.  Like little protrusions from the wall that your foot can’t really stand on, but that might help your other foot or your hands hang on just a little longer.  Or like fingertips, or the tips of fingertips – these really matter. When I got back onto solid ground after the moderate climb, I couldn’t move my fingers or wrists – they were both burning and throbbing.  My thighs and feet and back must have played a part, but I think my fingertips were the star of the show.

5.  Fear must be dealt with or it will be a block.

To climb that wall, I had to get over my fear of falling.  Probably by falling.  And getting back up again.

6.  Everything that gets done gets done one step at a time.

Many times on that moderate climb where I made it to the top, I didn’t think I would.  I’d look up and the way looked awfully long.  At those times I lowered my head to look at where I was and paused. I brushed aside the temptation to give up and instead agreed with myself to just look for the next step.  When tired, I thought of just the next step.  Stacking enough of next steps together got me somewhere.

I knew starting out that many rock climbers are diehards about their sport.  I think, in some tiny way, I may understand why.  It’s about a lot more than fitness and really challenges the mental strength of the climber, and this can only be that much more true when climbing an actual rock face.  At it’s core, I think rock climbing is about overcoming obstacles that you once wouldn’t have thought possible.  No wonder it’s got such a stronghold on its followers.

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Tried it: Paddle Board Fitness

I don’t really love the actual act of exercising. I don’t loathe it but it’s also not something that tops my list. I would rather read a good book, play with the boys, eat cookie dough . . . things I consider nourishment for my soul. But if I am to be honest, I do love the feeling that I have post-exercise. There is something to be said for the endorphin rush, in fact, a therapist told me that exercise is one of the best ways to fight the blahs.

But my interest wanes. I like to keep things fresh by trying out new classes. I have sampled my fair share and some, like Barre, hold a position in the rotation and others like the Tracy Anderson Method are collecting dust. (An aside: What beginner can actually keep up with her dancing?)

When I learned that Paddle Fitness was being added to the line-up of offerings at my club, I was keen to try. Many boxes were ticked: I like water, I like the warm sea air, I like relaxation, finding my inner calm . . .this sounded perfect for me. Forgetting for a minute that:

A) I am actually petrified of becoming shark bait whilst paddling in the Caribbean.

B) I would actually be paddling to nowhere within the confines of 4 walls blinded by the overhead fluorescent lighting.

I handed over my money.

I arrived at the class to find 6 other women, all of us clad in our finest stretchy pants and racer-backed tanks.

We prepped the boards by adding stabilizers at the front and back ends. There are three different levels of stability, this being moderately challenging. One stabilizer in the middle of the board provides the least support, better mimicking open-water paddling. Our instructor, a woman in her 40s with the body of a 20-year-old athlete, took her position facing us.

I mounted the board with ease and together we worked through a series of stretches. The mood was calm and almost relaxing thanks to a spotty WiFi connection disabling the thumping playlist. (Another aside: remember when instructors brought ghetto blasters? Mrs. Healy’s used to blare techno beats while my high school friends and I stepped up, down and to the side for an hour in her basement studio.)

Yes, I thought, this is exactly what I need. I need to zone out and imagine myself floating in the warm sea, with the sun beating down on me, defrosting my frozen fingers courtesy of the -27 degree weather outside.

4f3ecb3f3cbd4f677aa5a9d16683154d

This is what I think I look like.    (Image: Self Magazine)

 

What happened next, I am not too sure. It was an assault on my body. Burpees, mountain climbers, squats, push-ups, jumping up and over the board, squats, push-ups, plank, leg raises, squats, side-plank with one leg raised, push-ups, squats, squats, SQUATS!

ALL ON AN UNSTABLE BOARD.

With 8 minutes of the class remaining, the instructor sat in the middle of the board, with her knees bent and feet flat.

Oh, thank God! We’re almost done. Just a few stretches to go. Deep breath. Easy now, you sound like a congested pug.

And then she raised her feet into table-top and proceeded with the abdominal portion of the class. Five grueling minutes of V-sits, starfish-to-crabs (think full body extension, then pulling yourself up into a tuck), triceps dips with opposite leg to elbow crunches (I know, impossible right?).

ALL ON AN UNSTABLE BOARD.

This is what I actually look like.  (Image: 1000calorieaccelator.com)

This is what I actually look like.   (Image: 1000calorieaccelator.com)

Paddle Fitness is an all-encompassing work out. It works the core, challenges balance and stability, improves flexibility while being both a cardio and strength training exercise.

Wrists, shoulders and knees definitely have their moment in the spotlight, so if you have any injury or weakness with these joints be sure to let your instructor know so the program can be modified.

The verdict? Less than 24-hours later, I couldn’t put my bra on without wincing and my quads burned when I walked up the stairs, but I have been back. What can I say? I am hooked on that feelin’!

Fitbit Fever

fitbitI love, love, love my Fitbit.

What does my Fitbit do?  Well, I wear it on my wrist and it counts my steps (minimum 15,000 a day).  But that’s not all it does.  It gets me out and active every day.  It takes me on super-long walks several times a week (10-15k).  During those walks, I listen to podcasts of everything from NPR’s Serial (addictive!!) to The Guardian’s books podcast to A History of the World in 100 Objects from the BBC to Quirks and Quarks form the CBC.  So, my fitbit keeps me up to date and learning about books, history, science and culture.  It takes me on new routes to keep things fresh, so I’m discovering new areas of the city.  My walks have spurred a love of making photographs, and I aim to get one good shot from each good walk.  (I post them to our Instagram account or you can see the current one from the sidebar of the blog’s website.)  My Fitbit makes me stretch, because after walking 10k, you just have to stretch.  It has helped me lose 15 lbs since the end of the summer.  Not a rapid rate of weight loss, but steady and, oh so importantly, enjoyable.  There is no overcoming resistance to go out for long walks, not even in winter weather.  It has taught me that I need extrinsic motivation to succeed, and being accountable for my daily 15,000 steps has been a fun and inspiring goal.  I just love, love, love my Fitbit.

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My Fitbit was a gift from my husband from way back last spring (Mother’s Day).  I was so excited to get it because I’d been grilling a friend about hers and how it has helped her get strong and fit.  Ted heard how animated I was and surprised me with one.  Then, sadly, I let it sit in its box because I could not find the energy to figure out how to hook it up to the computer.  Oh, what wasted months!  When I finally set it up in September (my new year), it took all of 30 seconds.  Seriously.  So if you are a technophobe, fear no more.  It really could not be simpler.

The Fitbit bracelet counts steps, but the dashboard to which it connects on on your phone and/or computer can also help you track what you eat and how much you sleep.  (My fitbit thinks I sleep a lot more than I do because I read in bed for a few hours most nights.  My Fitbit probably thinks I’m a very big cat, actually.)  I have found tracking what I eat to be really helpful, mostly because it makes me realize that snacks and after-dinner nibbles really do add up.  Again, it drives home how much I rely on extrinsic motivation to succeed.  Seeing a list out there and up on my computer screen of what I put into my body helps me pay closer attention to that body.  Some people are good at just listening to their bodies; I’m not one of them.

If you are media social, your Fitbit can talk to Facebook and to friends.  My Fitbit and I keep to ourselves, pretty much, and that’s how I like it.

I think that’s the magic of this thing: it’s customizable and personal.  When we sat down in September to plan our themes for the upcoming months, we each decided to try a new fitness class or activity.  I hemmed and hawed about trying lots of new-to-me things, but I really could not get excited about any of them.  Walking fits for me; it’s what I love, and I am so grateful to have such a simple and effective tool to remind me to do what I love each and every day.

Buy a Fitbit from Indigo here.

 

Fitness Trends: The Tried, The Tested and The True

Working out isn’t everyone’s favourite thing to do but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that while maybe the actual “work out” isn’t the highlight of their day, the endorphins and overall good feeling that come post sweat, definitely usurps the drudgery of the actual work.

Nathalie, Carol and I are a bit of an eclectic trio and the fitness trends that we’ve chosen to test out depict that quite accurately. Nathalie is an avid walker (and she takes the MOST STUNNING photos on her daily walks around the city – you can view them by clicking here), Carol is a yogi at heart and I like to switch it up every few months.

However, this week Nathalie tracks her progress with FitBit, Carol tests her agility by rock climbing and I take on paddle board fitness. You’re definitely going to want to follow along this week, if for nothing else, the sheer entertainment!

Our guests this week are Leigh and Meg from the popular motherhood blog, Me and Meg. Leigh and Meg blog about ups and downs of motherhood with just the right amount of snark. They are witty, humble and kick-ass at Cross Fit. This Friday we find out how they did when they traded their barbells for a barre.

Don’t forget to join in the conversation by leaving us a comment on the blog or Instagram. At the very least, send us some encouragement!