The Friday before the long weekend in May seems like the perfect day to talk about healthy summer drinks don’t you think? I know a lot of my clients find summer a difficult time to stay healthy, with so many barbecues, campfires and get togethers it certainly can be a time where we all get derailed.
One of the fastest ways to fall down a rabbit hole of unhealthy habits is to dive head first into all the sugar-filled soda, juice and cocktail options that seem even more plentiful in the hot summer months than during the winter.
I get it – there isn’t much better than a nice delicious cold beverage on a hot day! But you don’t have to rely on unhealthy options to cool down. Iced tea is the perfect option for those looking for something delicious and healthy. But I’m not talking about the iced tea you are thinking of – that stuff is scarcely better than soda!, I’m talking about real iced tea.
All my friends know I’m a tea addict. Hot in the winter, iced in the summer – I just love it! But while I like to make mine from loose tea leaves when I have the chance, I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea (har de har har), and it can be a bit inconvenient when you are out on the go. That’s why I like Pure Leaf Unsweetened tea. It comes pre-made in the bottle, is brewed from real tea leaves picked at their freshest to deliver a genuine tea experience. And because it is unsweetened and brewed from real tea leaves, it has no sugar, artificial sweeteners, zero calories and zero compromises!
That’s what make Pure Leaf the perfect partner if you’re looking to lighten up this summer without sacrificing flavour. It’s the perfect beverage to go with lunch, brunch, dinner, cocktails, get togethers with your friends, post-workout rehydration – whatever your beverage needs.
Pure Leaf comes in three great flavours: Unsweetened Black Tea, Unsweetened Lemon Tea and Unsweetened Green Tea, and the best part about using real iced tea is that you get to tweak your tea to suit your tastes!
Tweaking your tea is all about adding flavour combinations you love to your Pure Leaf tea to make it even more delicious! The best part? You can add your ingredients right into the bottle and let them sit so you have no extra dishes to do!
Is it really that easy? Yes, it absolutely is! Today I want to share with you three of my favourite combinations for tweaking my tea – hopefully they will inspire you to try a few combinations of your own!
My absolute favourite is raspberry-lime iced tea. To make this flavour all you have to do is add some raspberries (I crushed mine before I added them, but you don’t have to), and the juice from one lime into a bottle of Unsweetened Lemon Tea and let it set for at least 30 minutes to let the flavours mingle.
I’m also a sucker for berries and basil so another of my favourites is strawberry-basil iced tea. This time I sliced frozen strawberries and tossed those along with a few fresh basil leaves into a bottle of Unsweetened Black Tea and let it sit again for at least 30 minutes (noticing a trend there?). In an effort to make this one feel a bit more like a cocktail I rimmed a martini glass with berry basil rim trimmer from Epicure.
If you want to be extra fancy you can add a sprig of fresh basil as a garnish! Enjoying a nice iced tea outside while reading a book in the summer – what could be better!?
And the final combo you got a little sneak peek of up above – mango ginger green iced tea! Frozen sliced mango and grated ginger helps give the natural Unsweetened Green Tea a nice sweetness with a little kick. While you can also use fresh fruit, I enjoy adding frozen when I have it as it adds flavour while helping the drink to stay cooler longer.
I hope you’ll agree that enjoying healthy drinks doesn’t have to be boring or tasteless. These tweaked iced teas really are flavourful, fun and let’s face it – pretty fabulous. I doubt anyone will miss those sugary sodas if you serve iced tea at your next get together!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Pure Leaf Unsweetened Tea, all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
When I think of spring cleaning for some reason the picture that immediately comes to mind is that of Laura and Mary Ingalls (from the books, not the TV show), cleaning out the whole house while their mother was gone somewhere. How they changed the hay in the mattresses and cleaned all the bedding and clothing and scrubbed the floors on their hands and knees. No wonder the idea of spring cleaning has always felt a little over whelming and tiresome. Ha!
Today is our local clean-up day. The day where we can take the bigger items that we no longer need or have use for (like old mattresses, broken furniture, etc.) out and the lovely garbage men will pick them up and haul them away along with our garbage for free. So it was inevitable that this past weekend I would have to tackle some form of spring cleaning.
Because a lot of my spring cleaning consisted of breaking down and then bundling up cardboard for the recycling, I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of pictures of that. Instead I want to share my three 15 minute spring cleaning projects that left me feeling pretty darn pleased. I find that while big jobs (like my cardboard grand canyon) can take some time and muscle to contend with, some of the ones that make me feel the most accomplished – really take virtually no time at all. Those 15 minute (or less) jobs really can make a big difference!
Like my up-cycled cabinet down in my laundry area. It had become a dumping ground for miscellaneous things, and while I wasn’t feeling up to tackling the job of repainting it just yet (that seems like more of a summer job 😉 ) organizing it was well past due, and something I was willing to tackle.
I started out by taking all my plants that have been sitting on top all winter outside. I’m too lazy to plant my calla lilies each year and dig them up in the fall so I just leave them in the pots and bring them inside each winter.
Why does the bottom part only have one door? I have no idea. But I don’t have the missing door so I grabbed a screw driver and removed the remaining door (and the hinges that were weirdly still attached on the other doorless side) to make it appear like purposeful open shelf space.
The top shelves were full of wooden coat hangers and a couple pairs of shoes. Coat hangers I haven’t in probably 3 years, and yet, here they sat taking up half of my cabinet. It was time for them to go. So I packed them, and all the stuff on the bottom shelves up, cleaned the shelves and sat back to figure out what would be the best use of the space.
I decided I needed to get some containers in there for organizational help so I grabbed my Snapware home storage containers to start organizing! I had 4-Smart Store 14”x6” Orange Containers, and 4-Smart Store 14”x9” Orange. These Snapware storage containers are perfect for areas like this because you can see what’s in them, they easily stack, and the covers literally SNAP on so you know when your belongings are sealed away from dirt and dust. I’m using the 14″ containers here, but they come in a variety of sizes to fit all shelves. Especially in an area like the basement where things often go missing, using clear storage containers can save a lot of time when you are out searching for that one particular thing!
I sorted out all the things I wanted to keep in the cabinet into the containers. Since I’m not running on any regular basis this year, I’ve stored my sneakers in one, my winter boots in another, and some miscellaneous sports and cleaning things in two others. Check out the before and after:
Can we talk about how much space I was wasting with those darn coat hangers? Geez.
On the bottom shelves, I’ve dedicated one whole shelf to basketballs (two of which are currently missing). Why do boys need so many basketballs? If I ask that, I’ll have to answer why girls need so many yoga mats…
And on the bottom shelf I’ve stored some plant pots and our “yard sneakers”. Another before and after:
All in all it took me less than 15 minutes to reorganize it, and I was as proud as a peacock about it, haha. As I mentioned above, I still need to repaint the unit, and I have shelf liner to put down, but as far as the cleaning end of the job goes, I’m pretty pleased. And finding things in the top of the cabinet without worrying about sending all those coat hangers flying is quite enjoyable.
Once done, I realized I still had two containers left (one 6″ and one 9″) so I took to my bathroom closet where I wrangled up all my cleaning cloths, etc. into one, and extra shower curtain and bathmat into another. Small things have been falling through the shelves for years, so it was again oddly satisfying to put everything in a container so I don’t have to go searching from one shelf to the other to find things now. And once again, since the containers are clear, I can easily see where things are stored – bonus!
And because I was on a roll, and three’s the charm, I headed to my bedroom to reorganize my closet. We have a small closet, so the shelves that hold all my jeans, T-shirts and “street clothes” (AKA not fitness clothes) easily get rumpled up. With a few minutes of work I tossed everything on my bed, refolded and put them away nicely. This also gave me the opportunity to look for things I no longer wear, or are stained/torn to toss out. When you’ve only got a small amount of space you have to be a bit more ruthless! No Snapware used here, just some good old fashioned folding (though it’s likely not up to the Ingall’s standard 😉 ).
In less than 1 hour I tackled three different areas of my house that were in need of a little TLC, and let me tell ya, that can really make a girl feel accomplished!
Snap Ware wants to help you with your spring cleaning and has offered to send one of my readers four Snapware home storage containers like those I used in the post above:
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Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by World Kitchen/Snapware. World Kitchen/SnapwareFrom bakeware, dinnerware, kitchen and household tools to range-top cookware, storage and cutlery, World Kitchen, LLC., and its affiliates manufacture and market brands known and trusted around the world. World Kitchen brands include Corningware, Snapware, Pyrex, Baker’s Secret, Chicago Cutlery, Corelle, and more!
Flexibility, of the three main aspects of fitness (cardio, strength and flexibility) you are the one people tend to forget about the most. Somehow you are thought to be less important – when really the opposite is true. Good flexibility is key in mobility, injury prevention, and overall wellness and yet many people avoid it like the plague. I think some honestly don’t realize how important it is (like the people who leave a fitness class just as the stretch/flexibility portion is starting – not because they have to go, but because they don’t think it’s important to stay… *insert side eye here*), find it too difficult or uncomfortable, or think stretching is somehow only for weak people <– nay, the strongest overall people are those who do flexibility training. Today I’m going to talk about how you can make flexibility training easier.
Not everyone of course falls into those categories, those who practice yoga and pilates have stretches built right into their movements, and dancers and gymnasts also take stretching very seriously. Last summer when I went to meet Ellie Black and watch her train, she spent a long time warming up, stretching and preparing to practice. It’s just so important, especially in a sport like hers, to make sure your body is ready to go before you actually “go”.
Today I’m here to talk to the people in category two – those who find it too hard/difficult and therefore avoid it. Maybe it’s difficult because you’ve made it a habit not to properly warmup or stretch after workouts, maybe an injury or illness (like arthritis) makes it difficult for you to get into the positions in order to stretch, or maybe you simply find it difficult for no other reason that it’s difficult.
It doesn’t have to be. Get out of your mind that stretching, yoga, flexibility training, or whatever you want to call it, has to include turning your body into a pretzel or forcing yourself into positions that feel impossible, painful and are simply put – uncomfortable.
Want to know how to make flexibility training instantly easier? Use props. A chair, a bolster cushion, yoga blocks (or a little pile of books), rolled up blankets, and straps – all of which can assist you in most any position to help support you, allow you more freedom and comfort and a wider ROM (range of motion). For the sake of this post, I’m going to be talking about one prop in particular – the strap. There are lots of different flexibility straps on the market, but I am using the Flex Strap from FlexFixx which is my favourite of the flexibility and yoga straps I’ve used over the years.
Your average yoga strap is one long strap with a buckle on one end so you can make a loop on one end to assist you in certain positions. The downside of those straps, is that every time you change positions you have to stop and readjust your buckle or un-do it completely which really slows you down and takes away from your training time (and your overall experience if in a yoga class). That’s why I live the Flex Strap so much, instead of the built in buckle, it has built in loops for foot and hand holds that you don’t have to adjust for every movement change. You can easily slip your hands and feet in and out as needed.
As you can see in the photo above, each loop is numbered making it really easy to track your progress through your training. Each end starts with 1 and works it’s way up to a 6 before hitting the middle which is labelled with the FlexFixx logo.
I don’t know how many of you have the need to use a seamstress fabric measuring tape, but 90% of the time when I pick one up I find I have the wrong end (the one with the highest number), and then have to fish around finding the other end with the 1. That might not seem like a big deal, and it isn’t, but having either end of the strap start with 1 means that I never have to stop what I’m doing to find the other side if I am tracking my progress. It also means that for positions where I can easily move from one side to the other, I am able to very quickly determine if my flexibility on one side is roughly the same on the other.
Using a strap makes it easy to achieve stretches or poses that limited ROM or the length of your limbs would make otherwise difficult.
Positions like a seated hamstring stretch (with straight back),
bound side angle,
and standing straddle – and really any chest opener.
The use of a strap can also really help to force you to activate muscle groups in a stretch or pose, instead of allowing them to be passive. Using the strap allows you to not only maintain the stretch, but in positions like a seated straddle also forces you to keep your feet actively flexed.
Looping the strap on one foot when moving into a seated straddle with side stretch again keeps your feet active while allowing you to choose your degree of side stretch based on which loop you put your hand in,
and in this lateral flexion, having your hands on the strap ensures you keep them the same distance apart throughout the move, which generates a better stretch.
And finally, using a strap can help support you in positions that you might find uncomfortable. For many, one such position is butterfly, as they find their knees don’t fall towards the floor very far and it can be uncomfortable to try and hold them up. Using the strap (I show in the video below how to do it) takes the pressure off the knees and allows you more comfort while allowing the stretch to do it’s job.
Many people find that the addition of props allows them to move into poses/positions that were previously unavailable to them, like reclining butterfly. The strap provides the support and relieves the pressure from the knees which may then allow you to move easily into this restorative position.
I have put together a video for you showing some of the stretches above, as well as a number of different stretches/poses not shown above.
I hope you can now see why adding some props to your flexibility or yoga training can really open up a whole new word of flexibility for you – and quite possibly make it a whole lot more fun! Please let me know if you’ve enjoyed this post, if people are interested I might make a few more of these posts showing how other props can really help your flexibility training. I find in classes they are under utilized because people have a stigma attached to them for some reason.
Toss your expectations aside and pick up a prop like the Flex Strap! It could change your entire flexibility game!
The Flex Strap is available for purchase on Amazon:
When you order a Flex Strap, you get not only the strap, but also a user guide filled with exercises you can do using it. Some are the same as those I’ve shared above, but there are also many different exercises, which is nice because I’ve never received a user guide with any other flexibility strap I’ve purchased over the years.
Finally, I hope you take some time today and stretch, your body will thank you for it!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for the FlexFixx Flex Strap. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I truly believe in this product and using props to aid your flexibility practice.
I can’t believe this was already a week ago! I’ve said it countless times before, but events like this are what really make blogging such a special thing. This is something I never would have done otherwise (even if it happened locally), so having the chance to go to Moncton to help support the Shopper’s Drug Mart LOVE.YOU. weekend was such a huge pleasure.
Even the drive to and from Moncton (which was 4 hours for me) was fun. A car load of blogger friends made the drive just as fun for me as the event (and I was the one driving, so that’s saying something!).
It was a whirlwind once we arrived though! From the Beauty Gala where we had our make-up done, to supper out, the NB Heart Truth Red Dress Fashion Show, to the concert by Alan Doyle and the Beautiful Gypsies, followed by a 5K the next day! The easiest way to show it to you is in photos.
I was SnapChatting the whole weekend, but since I know many of you aren’t on SnapChat, I downloaded my stories from those two days and made them into a vlog style video! On snapchat you can share both photos and video, so just know that some of the clips are in fact photos – your computer/phone isn’t playing tricks on you
And while getting all fancy and dressing up, watching a fashion show and concert and participating in a 5K is fun all on it’s own, the meaning behind the weekend was what really made it so very special.
Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in Canada for women, so the real story behind this weekend was looking at health risk and what changes we can make to make our lives healthier. There were dieticians at the NB Heart Truth event for people to talk to, and the stories behind the Red Dress Models was both heart breaking and up-lifting. From Dianne Jones who is an active runner and badminton player who went into sudden cardiac arrest who was saved through the use of CPR and an AED machine, to Sofia Bossenberry, the 8 year old with Cardiac Fibroma. The stories of courage and perseverance was nothing short of humbling. As someone with a host of various health problems, I still count myself lucky that my issues are as non-serious as they are. What I walked away from the evening – and weekend – feeling, was a renewed sense of purpose in just how important my role as a fitness and nutrition professional is to help women (and men) make small changes that lead to huge health impacts.
Women especially can so easily get caught up in caring for others, at home and at work, that we don’t care as good care of ourselves. I am just as guilty, and in some cases even more so, than most for doing this. Taking on more classes and coaching than I should because I want to help people and put their wellbeing in front of my own. This is something I have been really trying to work on, more so in the past 6-8 months than previously.
Taking care of yourself doesn’t just mean eating healthy heart-healthy foods and moving(though that is a big part of it), it also means managing stress levels (both physical and mental).
Some things you should do/monitor to reduce your risk of heart disease include*:
- Eating Healthy: Eat a diet low in bad fats, reducing salt intake, eating more fruits and vegetables and limit alcohol consumption.
- Physical Activity: Staying physically active helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight, helps to keep your blood pressure & cholesterol under control, improves your body’s ability to control blood sugar, and provides a healthy way for your body to relieve stress.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking lowers the oxygen levels in your blood and speed your heartbeat, forcing your heart to work harder. It raises your blood pressure, and increases your risk of blood clots. And smoking increases the buildup of fatty plaque on the walls of your arteries, which clogs the arteries and increases your risk of heart disease.
- Blood Pressure: High blood pressure damages the walls of the blood vessels. Once damaged, they are more likely to become clogged with fatty deposits called plaque, which narrow and harden the blood vessels. It also puts more strain on the heart, since it’s harder to pump blood when blood pressure is high.
- Cholesterol: High cholesterol affects about 40% of Canadians, but many have no symptoms so you may have high cholesterol and not even know it. High cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries, which over time can cause them to narrow and become less flexible. This makes it harder for blood to flow through. Sometimes a blood clot can build up in the narrowed artery and move to the heart, causing a heart attack.
- Blood Glucose: High levels of glucose in the blood can damage your arteries. This makes you more prone to buildups of fatty plaque. Having diabetes increases the chances of high blood pressure, which is another heart disease risk factor.
*all information shared from the Shopper’s Drug Mart “Ready to take your health to heart” pamphlet
Big thanks again to Shopper’s Drug Mart for having us, it really was an amazing weekend I will never forget. And a big thanks to my awesome road trip buddies:
- Heather: www.mmmisformommy.com Twitter/Instagram/SnapChat @mmmisformommy
- Kayla: www.shortpresents.com Twitter/Instagram/SnapChat @shortpresents
- Zoe: www.writingwhimsy.com Twitter/Instagram/SnapChat @writingwhimsy
Back Pain. It is something we have all experienced, and it can really put a damper on your life. But how often do we just chaulk it up to being, “back pain,” and don’t give it much more thought?
As a fitness instructor, I see a lot of people in the run of a week so I am in the position to hear about these uncharacteristic aches and pains more often than the average person. I always ask participants how they hurt themselves, where it hurts, what movement bothers the injury, etc. to try and determine whether or not it is safe for them to exercise, and what types of modifications I should provide them to keep them save. But those instances are almost always acute injuries – the injuries that occurred suddenly after a specific accident or incident. It’s very rare that someone talks to me about chronic or ongoing pain that has slowly developed over time. In my experience, those with that type of pain often keep it to themselves, and that is what bring me to today’s post.
A month or so ago I was contacted about helping to raise awareness for Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) Awareness. As a fitness professional, I feel I am generally pretty well informed on different conditions and diseases that concern the muscular and skeletal systems, but I had no idea what AS was and had to Google it to find out more about it.
What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
What I discovered was that AS is a type of inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is one where the body’s immune system becomes confused and begins to “attack” the body. In people with AS, it’s the joints in the spine that are the target of the immune attack, resulting in pain and stiffness (inflammation) in the back.
The inflammation usually begins at the base of the spine where the spine attaches to the pelvis (sacroiliac joints). This can spread upwards to involve other parts of the spine and, in severe cases can involve the entire spinal column. As the inflammation continues, new bone forms as the body tries to repair itself, which causes the spine to become very stiff and inflexible. Even though new bone has formed, the existing bone can become thin, which increases the risk of fractures.
What concerned me even more, was learning that in people with AS the auto-immune attack may also cause inflammation in the eye, a condition called uveitis or isitis. And was particularly interested to learn that those with AS can also sometimes develop IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) like crohn’s and colitis. Many of you know that my husband has IBD. Well, he has also had back issues for years, which is another reason why I felt it was important to be a part of this awareness campaign. If I, as a fitness professional and wife to someone with a diagnosed auto-immune disease had still never heard of it – how many of my readers, participants, friends and family didn’t know anything about it either?
Who Is At Risk?
AS affects between 150,000 and 300,000 Canadians, and affect three times men than women, but the severity of AS can be the same in either gender. While people of any age can develop AS, it usually appears between the ages of 15 and 30.
What Are The Symptoms?
AS can cause very different symptoms in different people. Some individuals may have mild back pain, while others may have severe chronic pain accompanied by stiffness of the spine which affects their posture and daily activities.
The most universal symptom is chronic low back pain, lasting for more than three months, which seems to come and go for no apparent reason. It is generally worse in the morning when getting out of bed and improves with stretching and exercise.
The areas most commonly affected are:
- The joint between the base of your spine and your pelvis
- The vertebrae of the lower back
- Where your tendons and ligaments attach to bones, mainly in your spine, but sometimes along the back of your heel
- The cartilage between your breastbone and ribs
- Your hip and shoulder joints
When Should You See A Doctor?
You should see your doctor if you have low back or buttock pain that came on slowly, is worse in the morning, or awakens you from your sleep in the second half of the night – particularly if this pain improves with exercise and worsens with rest. See an eye specialist immediately if you develop a painful red eye, severe light sensitivity or blurred vision. If you have gastrointestianl issues or a family histor of IBD, mention these to your doctor.
There is no cure for AS, but an early diagnosis and appropriate treatment help in the management of the disease and contribute to reduce severe damage to the joints. Most people with AS can lead active and productive lives with the help of the right treatment, in some cases surgery, exercise, rest and joint protection techniques.
What Can You Do Right Now?
Concerned about your back pain? The first step is to determine if you are experiencing mechanical or inflammatory back pain. Take the 30 second quiz on the Stand Up To Back Pain website to determine whether or not you should make an appointment to see your doctor.
And in the meantime, I’ve put together a series of spine-friendly back stretches below that anyone with back issues can do to help to start to relieve lower back pain right now.
As with any exercise, if something doesn’t feel “right” when you move into any of these stretches, it is best to play it safe and stay away from those stretches until you’ve consulted your physician.
Alternating Knee To Chest
While laying on your bed or the floor, bring one knee in towards your torso as you exhale, hold for 2-3 breathes and then return your foot to the floor and repeat with the opposite leg.
Repeat for a total of 5 times on each leg.
From your hands and knees, with your knees directly under your hips, and hands directly under your shoulders, take a deep breathe in and as you exhale, arch your back up dropping your chin and tailbone like a halloween cat. As you inhale, slowly lift your tailbone and look upwards. Gentle alternate back and forth stopping to take a few deep breaths any place that you feel tension.
Repeat 5-10 times.
Similar to Cat/Cow, but here we are isolating just the SI joint. Begin on your hands and knees with knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders. As you exhale, gently tuck your tailbone as though you were drawing in under you. As you inhale, gently allow your tailbone to return to a neutral spine.
Repeat 5-10 times.
Still on your hands and knees, this time you are going to exhale as you extend your left leg straight behind you, foot flexed with toes pointing towards the floor, while simultaneously extending your right arm straight ahead at no higher than shoulder level. If you find it difficult to lift both the opposite arm and leg at the same time, start by lifting the leg, then add the arm. Try to keep your hips level, minimizing the twisting through your spine as much as possible. To do this place more weight in your supporting arm to help balance you. Keep your head looking straight down during this exercise to keep your neck in line with your spine. Lower your left leg and right arm back to their starting position, and repeat on the opposite side.
You may feel unsteady, that is ok and is the nature of this exercise.
Repeat 5 times
From your hands and knees, sit back towards your heels allowing your forehead to rest on the floor, stacked hands or fists, or use a pillow for full trunk support. If this is difficult for your low back try opening your knees so that they are further apart which can be more relaxing for a sore low back.
Stay here for 30 seconds up to 2 minutes.
I’ve also recorded a video of these stretches for you.
I hope you’ve found these stretches helpful, and I hope that you will take a few seconds to complete the quiz on StandUpToBackPain.ca if you haven’t done so already, and then share this post with your friends and family. Early diagnosis of AS is key, and it’s hard for your doctor to diagnose you if he/she doesn’t know you are having unexplained back pain. Your spine is not something to trifle with, please – if you are having ongoing issues that have no yet been diagnosed or treated, please take the quiz and then make an appointment to see your doctor.
Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by AbbVie Corporation. All opinions expressed within this and any post on this site are entirely my own.