Fitness

How To Make Flexibility Training Easier

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZGbBvP_Jis

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.

Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.

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.

Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.

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.

Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.

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.

Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.

Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.

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),

Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.kneeling lunge with bent knee,
Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.

bound side angle,

Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.

and standing straddle – and really any chest opener.

Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.

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.

Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.

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,

Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.

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.

Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.

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.

Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.

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.

Find flexibility training, yoga, or stretching in general difficult? With a few simple supportive props like a yoga strap you can take your training and/or your practise to a whole new level.

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:

Amzaon.com: http://amzn.to/1snLSTY
Amazon.ca: http://amzn.to/1Orw3oX

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. 

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When Is Your Back Pain, Not Just Back Pain?

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.Have back pain? Try these stretches after your workout or anytime when you are feeling a bit tight. Not sure what is causing your back pain, take the quiz to see if you should consult your doctor

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:

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.

Have back pain? Try these stretches after your workout or anytime when you are feeling a bit tight. Not sure what is causing your back pain, take the quiz to see if you should consult your doctor

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

Have back pain? Try these stretches after your workout or anytime when you are feeling a bit tight. Not sure what is causing your back pain, take the quiz to see if you should consult your doctor

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.

Cat/Cow

Have back pain? Try these stretches after your workout or anytime when you are feeling a bit tight. Not sure what is causing your back pain, take the quiz to see if you should consult your doctor

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.

Pelvic Tuck

Have back pain? Try these stretches after your workout or anytime when you are feeling a bit tight. Not sure what is causing your back pain, take the quiz to see if you should consult your doctor

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.

Spinal Balance

Have back pain? Try these stretches after your workout or anytime when you are feeling a bit tight. Not sure what is causing your back pain, take the quiz to see if you should consult your doctor

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

Child’s Pose

Have back pain? Try these stretches after your workout or anytime when you are feeling a bit tight. Not sure what is causing your back pain, take the quiz to see if you should consult your doctor

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.

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FitBit Blaze {A Review}

A few weeks ago I received a FitBit Blaze as part of a project I’m working on with Sport Chek. This post is NOT part of that project. Because I have been asked many times both in person and on social media how I am liking the Blaze, I decided to write this post.

fitbit blaze 24/7 activity tracker review

When I first started talking with Sport Chek, they offered me either the FitBit Blaze, or the Alta. Despite the fact that the Blaze is now on my wrist, I initially requested the Alta. You see, I already have my Polar M400 and the TomTom Spark I got only a few months back so it seemed foolish to get yet another fitness watch. Especially since my Polar is still my preferred running training computer, and my TomTom is great for both teaching and long walks (since it has a built in music player and fits a bit more comfortably on my wrist). And then there is my regular non-fitness watch that I wear on the weekends and when I’m out. I just didn’t make sense to get another watch. Whereas the Alta was simply an upgrade from my FitBit Flex which I’ve been wearing for years regardless of which watch I had on the other wrist.

So why do I now have the Blaze? Because they sent it to me by mistake. When I opened the package and saw the Blaze I realized they had made a mistake, but seeing it in person I was also a bit like, “Ohhhhhhh, it looks so nice!!” So I did what any logical person in 2016 with an iPhone would do. I asked Google if I could have more than one FitBit attached to the same account. And the answer was yes. Not only that, but once you have two FitBit devices on your account it will detect which one you are using so you can switch from one to the other without having to do anything within the app or the website.

fitbit blaze 24/7 activity tracker review

That sealed the deal. I emailed them and said that I had received the Blaze, but now that I wanted to keep it. This way, those times when I wanted to wear a different watch I could pop my FitBit Flex back on without losing any of those precious FitBit steps. 😉

So I set it up and put it on, and took my Flex off. One thing you should know is that I wear my watch on my left wrist, and my FitBit was always on my right wrist, so moving to the Blaze meant for the first time in years I had a naked right wrist. That might not seem like a big deal, but in the past few years my fibromyalgia has started bothering my arm joints more than anything else so I regularly have wrist pain. That pain is often worse on my right side than my left (which is odd since I’m left handed), so having a bare right arm was immediately enjoyable.

I feel badly saying this, but since putting the Blaze on my wrist, I haven’t worn any other watches – including my Michael Kors watch, or put my FitBit Flex back on.

fitbit blaze 24/7 activity tracker review

The band is so comfortable, and it’s sporty while being stylish so I don’t feel like I’m wearing a clunky sports watch if I’m wearing it on on the weekend. I’m sure as time goes on I’ll start incorporating the others back into a rotation, but right now I’m pretty smitten.

The strap is flexible and comfortable. The size small on my tiny wrist fits snug without me putting it on the smallest setting.

After using the FitBit Flex for so long (which only has 5 lights that light up as your step count increases during the day) it was nice to be able to see exactly how many steps I have without having to open the website or the app on my phone. It’s also cool to have a constant heart rate reading. In the past I’ve poo-pooed wrist heart rate watches because they made you stop and put your fingers on a sensor to read your heart rate. I should have know technology had moved past that, and instead this uses LED lights to read your heart rate automatically. I’m sure they’ve been doing that for a while since I know the Force also tracks your heart rate.

It also explains what that flashing light I use to see when I took my TomTom off was, I guess I’m a bit slow to pick up on the LED heart rate tracking game. Anyway, if you have been wondering how these devices track your heart rate, that’s how.

The Blaze has some other fun features like FitStar which has pre-programmed workouts you can follow, a stopwatch and timer, alarms, workout tracking (which it really does automatically so I have yet to track an actual workout since mine have all been classes – but this would come in really handy during runs, bike rides, walks and whatnot).

Additionally, you can receive your texts messages and accept or decline phone calls right from your watch face which is fun – but remember your phone’s bluetooth must be left on in order for that to work.

fitbit blaze 24/7 activity tracker review

I have yet to try controlling your iPhone music right from the Blaze. Another instructor on Facebook mentioned that that is how she starts and stops (or skips) songs in Zumba and I think that is GENIUS. I don’t use my phone for my music in classes so that sweet idea won’t work for me, but it might for you!

As I mentioned bluetooth above, this is where I’ll put my one negative comment about the Blaze. In general I’m not a fan of leaving my bluetooth on 24/7. It drains my phone battery and I really don’t need to be updated on my wrist anytime I get a text message (which is pretty often). However, in the first week of using the Blaze, there were at least two times I turned my bluetooth on to sync my data and my phone couldn’t connect to the Blaze. In both those instances I ended up having to delete it from my account and re-adding it. Not a huge deal, but a bit of a pain in the butt. But that is a software issue, not a problem with the Blaze itself, and a couple days ago there was an update to the software so it’s possible this issue has already been addressed. In the meantime, I’ve been leaving my bluetooth on because it’s not very often that I am in a place where I cannot charge my phone throughout the day if needed.

So yeah, I’m pretty smitten with this little gadget. The battery lasts about 5 days on a charge, takes about 2 hours to recharge so I usually do it when I’m sitting at the computer working anyway. I’ve heard others complain that they found popping it in and out of the strap setting to charge seemed “flimsy” and that they were afraid they were going to break it, but I’ve not felt that at all. The watch frame is metal and it snaps in and out securely but not difficultly.

One of the reasons such a full featured unit can last so long in one charge (in comparison, my Flex lasts about 7 days) is partly because the screen goes to sleep when you aren’t looking at it. To turn the screen on you can tap the button on the side of the unit, but it will also automatically turn on when it senses you lift your arm or turn your wrist to look at it. It’s not perfect, but that works most of the time. That’s also why I don’t mind wearing it to bed since it doesn’t have a light shining all night long, plus it is easy for me to wake up and quickly look at the time without having to turn to my nightstand.

Is It Worth The Price?

That is going to be an individual decision based on your needs. If all you need/want is a tracker to see how many steps you are taking then one of the less expensive models will suit you just fine. If you want more functionality like the built in heart rate monitor, FitStar and some of the other features in a sleek watch styled unit – then yeah I’d say it’s worth $250.

I recently read this article where a man went to the ER and it was because they were able to look back at his heart rate reading via the FitBit app on his phone that they were able to quickly determine how to best treat him. Knowing that my husband has had heart issues in the past (he had to have an extra pathway in his heart ablated 1 1/2 years ago), this article really made me think about upgrading him to the FitBit Force or Blaze so that he could have that 24/7 heart info too in case he were to start having problems again.

And though I thought I didn’t think I cared about the heart rate monitor feature for myself, I’ve since changed my tune. As someone who has suffered from over-training syndrome and is still finding her way back to a fully healthy state from it, being able keep a watch on my heart rate to make sure my resting heart rate doesn’t do anything weird is important and I find myself checking in once a week to see whether my average resting heart rate is going up or down.

But if heart rate tracking really isn’t something that you feel you need to worry about, I’d go with the Alta because that aqua sure is beautiful! 😀

There you go – my FitBit Blaze review! I hope it answered some of the questions you might have about this cool new gadget.

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Three Foam Roller Exercises You Should Do Every Day

By now you’ve heard about foam rolling, if not from me then from someone else. And if you somehow have made it this far without ever hearing about it, here is a super quick crash course.

We all experience tension in our bodies whether it be from working at a desk, on an assembly line, exercise, sitting a certain way, from previous injuries, etc. When we experience chronic tension or tightness, adhesions form on muscles, tendons and ligaments which can cause circulatory issues, pain, limit range of motion and cause inflammation. Stretching cannot break up these adhesions, you need deep tissue work to break them up.

Most of us don’t have the funds or the time to go for daily deep tissue massages. At least I don’t! That’s why a foam roller can be your best friend. For a one-time investment that is less than one trip to the masseuse, you can buy a foam roller that will be able to start breaking up those adhesions and return circulation the affected areas right from the comfort of your home.

Now I won’t lie to you, deep tissue massage whether from a set of skilled hands or a foam roller is not a relaxing zen-like experience. It flipping hurts. Especially at first when those areas are so inflamed and sore to the touch. But the goods news is that like with the foot relfexology which I wrote about last week, it takes only a few sessions for the pain to begin to lesson.

In a perfect world we would all have time to spend a good half an hour or so foam rolling each day after a nice walk or workout to help break up those adhesions and prevent new ones from forming while providing the rest of our muscles with a nice relaxing message – but in case you hadn’t noticed, we don’t live in a perfect world. That is why today I want to show you the three foam roller exercises you can should be doing everyday, and they will take a total of about 10 minutes to do – so you can easily fit this in during commercial breaks of a 30-minute TV show.

The three foam roller exercises you should be doing every day.

(click the image from your desktop to pin for later)

I’ve chosen these three exercises based on my experience both personally and as a trainer as the foam roller exercises that are the most needed for the majority of the people I’ve coached.

In case you are wondering why you should listen to me, I completed a self-myofascial release programming course a few years ago so I do have professional training on this subject. 

Those three areas are the back, the ITB and the glutes.

Does it matter what kind of foam roller you use? Yes and no. If you are just starting out and have never foam rolled before, grabbing one of the less expensive foam rollers is a good place to start. The problem with those, is they are made of a lower density foam so over time will start to warp. My first foam roller now is compressed in the middle making look more like an hour glass than a cylinder.

The three foam roller exercises you should be doing every day.

My first foam roller and I having some quality time after a long run

What’s more, those less expensive rollers tend to be perfectly flat on the surface. You might wonder why that matters, well when you are foam rolling, remember you are working adhesions to improve blood flow. Yet when foam rolling with a roller that is flat on the surface, you are actually slowing blood flow even more as you “mush” (a very technical term there, haha) the foam roller into your muscles. When you use a foam roller with grooves and channels like the Trigger Point GRID, there are always areas where the blood can continue to flow and circulate while you are working. That makes it more effective, and the grooves and channels on the GRID are strategically placed to better mimic an actual massage.

The three foam roller exercises you should be doing every day.

The long narrow sections are there to mimic fingers, the wider section the palm, and in small squares you cannot see in the above photo mimic fingertips.

At this point is should come as no surprise that I highly recommend Trigger Point’s GRID Foam Rollers. I’ve had the original GRID for quite a while and love it so much. I had learned about the GRID at a fitness conference years ago, but never had the opportunity to try – and feel the difference – until I bought my own. The difference between it and my old foam roller is like the difference between night and day. It is so far superior I cannot even believe it.

And then last month Trigger Point sent me the new GRID X (pictured above) which is twice as firm as the original. Oh my gosh, once again – the difference is unbelievable. The GRID X is definitely a much firmer roller, and for that reason I would suggest starting out with the original GRID before upping the intensity.

Starting out you are going to find foam rolling painful to begin with as you first start to break up those adhesions, so you’ll want to do it with a less dense roller. Once you’ve worked out those initial areas and are starting to feel a bit better when rolling, then I would recommend moving up to the GRID X if you want to increase the intensity level.

In today’s video I’m going to be using the GRID X to demonstrate the three exercises, but the exercises will be the same regardless of which roller you choose to use.

It’s really important to remember to breathe while on your foam roller – resist the urge to hold your breathe! And if you find a spot that is really, really sore, only stay there for a couple seconds. Each time you roll it will get a little bit less sore and you’ll be able to stay there longer. And finally, make sure you can recognize the difference between muscular pain and mechanical pain. When using your foam roller you should expect muscular pain, but if the pain feels like it might be mechanical, stop what you are doing and be sure to consult a health care professional before returning to foam rolling!

In the coming months I am going to be releasing an “At-Home Fascia Release E-Course” which will provide a much more in-depth explanation on foam rolling, different exercises you can do with the foam roller and other fascia release tools. If you are interested in being kept in the loop about that e-course, be sure to sign up for my e-mail list!

Amazon.ca links:

Amazon.com links:

Disclosure: Trigger Point sent me with the GRID X foam roller free of charge, but I purchased the GRID with my own money and truly recommend Trigger Point rollers over others on the market. This post contains affiliate links, if you make a purchase through one of these links you are helping to support this site – thank you!

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TomTom Spark Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch

Have you ever been out on a walk or run and wished you could use just one device instead of three or four? Personally I use my FitBit, then my Polar M400 for my GPS and heart rate tracking and my phone or iPod for music (and then spend most of my walk or run adjusting headphones). The headphones are the worst. Especially when running, you don’t want too much slack or you’ll get tangled up, not enough and you feel like you are strangling yourself. At least that’s my problem. Enter my new BFF: the TomTom Spark Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch.

The TomTom Spark Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch combines a fitness tracker, a heart rate monitor, GPS watch, and iPod all in one - with Bluetooth headphones! It is a dream for any active person whether in the gym or out on a run!

Let me start off by saying until this showed up at my door I had never used bluetooth headphones. And now I’m entirely obsessed. They are pretty much the best things to happen to music since the MP3 Player. Seriously, if you are still fighting with regular headphones every time you go for a workout you owe it to yourself to get some bluetooth ones. They will change your life.

The headphones that come with the Spark Cardio are of course TomTom brand headphones, and though it took me a few minutes to figure out how to sync them to the watch, a quick trip to the TomTom Youtube channel sorted that out for me. They have great videos explaining all of the features of the watch making it super easy to use.

The headphones come with a variety of headphone covers so you can choose the ones that best fit the shape of your ear. I have small ears but was pleasantly surprised at how comfortably these fit and how well they stay in place.

The TomTom Spark Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch combines a fitness tracker, a heart rate monitor, GPS watch, and iPod all in one - with Bluetooth headphones! It is a dream for any active person whether in the gym or out on a run!

Transferring music onto the device is easy too, once plugged into your computer it’ll bring up a window where you can quickly select playlists or podcasts that you want to add (and yes, there’s a video for that too!). It has room for up to 500 songs so you won’t be stuck listening to the same 10 songs over and over – unless you only put 10 songs on it! 😉

Once on it starts tracking all on it’s own, you don’t need to do anything besides wear it to get your daily step count and sleep statistics.

The TomTom Spark Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch combines a fitness tracker, a heart rate monitor, GPS watch, and iPod all in one - with Bluetooth headphones! It is a dream for any active person whether in the gym or out on a run! The TomTom Spark Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch combines a fitness tracker, a heart rate monitor, GPS watch, and iPod all in one - with Bluetooth headphones! It is a dream for any active person whether in the gym or out on a run! The TomTom Spark Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch combines a fitness tracker, a heart rate monitor, GPS watch, and iPod all in one - with Bluetooth headphones! It is a dream for any active person whether in the gym or out on a run!

I’ve still been wearing my FitBit, and can’t tell you how well the tracking compares as I wear my watch on my left hand and my Fitbit on my right (I’m a lefty so the watch is undoubtably going to pick up more “false” steps than my Fitbit). But as far as sleep goes it’s pretty close to my Fitbit reading. In the above picture it shows I slept 7hr 57min last night and my Fitbit says 7hr 54min.

As far as everyday use goes, my favourite thing about the TomTom is the strap/clasp.

The TomTom Spark Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch combines a fitness tracker, a heart rate monitor, GPS watch, and iPod all in one - with Bluetooth headphones! It is a dream for any active person whether in the gym or out on a run!

Instead of your usual watch fastener, it has these little connectors that click into place on either side of the strap holding is securely, and then another set to hold the excess strap in place. I have small wrists, and teaching Zumba means my arms are flying around everyday, haha. It drives me crazy when I wear my Polar and the strap comes loose and starts flapping around in the middle of a song and because I’m teaching it’s hard to find a free second to fix it. That is not a problem with the TomTom, I’ve not once had the strap come loose in the nearly three weeks I’ve been wearing it.

The strap and watch itself is also really comfortable to wear. I feeling like I’m basking my Polar, which I really do love, but that sucker is huge and not the most comfortable thing out there. I find it so square around the top that it frequently hits my wrist bones painfully, and that doesn’t happen at all with the TomTom. The watch face is smaller and sits much more nicely on my wrist for day to day use.

The TomTom Spark Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch combines a fitness tracker, a heart rate monitor, GPS watch, and iPod all in one - with Bluetooth headphones! It is a dream for any active person whether in the gym or out on a run!

One more super cool feature on the TomTom? The light. Instead of having to push a button to get the screen to light up, you put your hand over the screen for a second or two and it lights up on it own! It’s really helpful for me while teaching yoga because it’s silent (many other watches beep when you push any button) so I can quietly check the time while my class is in final relaxation to make sure I finish class on time.

All in all I’m pretty darn smitten with the TomTom Spark Cardio + Music. It has quickly become my day-to-day watch during the work week, and I love that I am able to swap out the straps if I decide I want a more exciting colour than plain black!

Disclosure: I was provided with a TomTom Spark Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch in order to facilitate this review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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