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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Shopper’s LOVE. YOU. Weekend {recap}

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.

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Photo 2016-04-30, 2 34 09 PM

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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*:

Learn more about heart health from the Heart & Stroke Foundation heartandstroke.ca or visit the Shopper’s Drug Mart website

*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:

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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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Meaty Meatless Taco Salad with Creamy Chipotle Lime Dressing

Cinco De Mayo, or “Five of May” is a celebration held on – you guessed it – May the 5th. It commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over the French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 making it a great day to enjoy some delicious Mexican food!

Meaty Meatless Taco Salad with Creamy Chipotle Lime Dressing a great recipe for Cinco de Mayo

Mexican food is always one thing – delicious. But it isn’t always healthy, so today I wanted to share with you a healthy recipe that you can make this Cinco de Mayo (tomorrow!), which tastes indulgent but really isn’t.

What really makes this recipe is the Que Pasa tortilla chips and salsa. Que Pasa organic, non-GMO chips are crafted from whole kernel corn ground with real volcanic lava stone – the traditional way they’ve been made in Mexico for generations.  They’re also gluten free, vegan, low sodium, and super delicious! Truly, once you’ve tasted Que Pasa tortilla chips you’ll never look at those other tortilla chips the same again. They really do taste better, you can tell the care that goes into making them. Did I mention they are delicious? Because oh my goodness, are they ever.

As for the Que Pasa Salsa, I had never tasted it before, in fact I didn’t even realize they had a salsa, but it too is amazing! The consistency is different from other brands, and since I am a fan of less chunky salsa, the Que Pasa salsa is another awesome find for me. So far I haven’t ventured past the mild, but I’m very much looking forward to getting into the medium chipotle because Suzi lovvvvvves chipotle!

But let’s get back to the Taco Salad, where those tortilla chips definitely shine! This is a recipe developed by Que Pasa, and is one found on their website (along with a bunch of other delicious recipes!)

Meaty Meatless Taco Salad with Creamy Chipotle Lime Dressing

Meaty Meatless Taco Salad with Creamy Chipotle Lime Dressing

Ingredients:
Salad
  • 3 cups spring mix
  • 1 cup romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 2 avocadoes, chopped or 1 cup guacamole
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheese or dairy alternative
  • ½ cup green onions
  • 1 cup favourite Que Pasa tortilla chips, broken
  • 1/3 cup pickled jalapeno slices
Creamy Chipotle Lime Dressing
  • 1/2 cup Que Pasa Chipotle Salsa
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or dairy alternative
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
Meatless taco crumble
  • 1½ cups of crumbled extra firm tofu or veggie ground like SoL Cuisine Organic Veggie Crumbles
  • 1/3 cup of barbeque sauce
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning (or 0.5 tbsp. cayenne, 0.5 tsp chili powder, 1½ tbsp. paprika)
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup chopped onion
Directions
1. Sauté onions in coconut oil. Add crumbled firm tofu or veggie ground until heated and then stir in seasoning and barbecue sauce. Set aside.
2. To make dressing, mix all dressing ingredients in food processor. Set aside.
3. In a large salad bowl, add salad ingredients, topping with shredded cheese, tortilla chips, and green onions. Garnish as desired.
While this is a meatless recipe, you could easily replace the tofu or veggie ground with the meat of your choice. That’s the best part about cooking at home – you get to make all the rules! And when you have amazing flavours like this, meatless or not this salad is going to be a crowd pleaser!
Meaty Meatless Taco Salad with Creamy Chipotle Lime Dressing
Cinco de Mayo might be tomorrow, but Que Pasa wants to help you take the party all summer long and offered to sponsor a giveaway!
Meaty Meatless Taco Salad with Creamy Chipotle Lime Dressing
One of my lucky readers is going to win a Que Pasa prize package valued at $50. GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED

The @QuePasaFoods #EverydayFiesta #CincoDeMayo Giveaway includes:

Ready to enter? All you have to do is leave me a comment below telling me hot hot do you like it? Your salsa that is 😉 Are you a mild, medium or hot sort of person? I envy people who can handle spice I most certainly cannot. My belly just doesn’t welcome it at ALL.

Want an extra entry? Be sure to follow both myself @suziconfesses and Que Pasa @QuePasaFoods on Twitter and tweet the following:

If you tweet, be sure to leave a separate comment below with your tweet URL.

Giveaway will end at 12:01am on Thursday, May 12th, 2016.

Eligibility: Giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the US.

A winner has been chosen – congrats Linda!
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winner
Disclosure: I was provided with product sample in exchange for this post, all opinions expressed are my own. Ole!

 

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Mega Mix 53

You know it’s new music day if I’m posting twice in one day – that never happens otherwise, haha. Mega Mix 53 dropped yesterday so let’s take a look at what’s on this month’s release shall we?

Verano by Danel Batista {Merengue}

Quiero Verte Bailar by Jeison El Brother {Salsa}

Hasta el Amanecer  (Cover) {Reggaeton}

No (Cover) {Hip Hop}

Dale (Radio Edit) by Soldat Jahman & Luis Guisao feat. Kenza Farah {Dance}

La Cumbia Del Cucu by Papayo ft. Victoria “La Mala” {Cumbia}

La Vida by Arsenal {Soca}

Cheap Thrills  (Cover) {Pop}

Bolliyan by Mika, Shipra Goyal {Bhangra}

Dancing Kizomba by Alx Veliz {Kizomba}

Looks like that last one you’ll have to click through to YouTube to watch/listen to, but the song is there.

Anyway, there you have it – the new album for May 2016. I know they like to add pop songs now and again, and I do use them but it does seem a little odd to me that we’ve had 3 Meghan Trainer songs in the past year or so. Of course they need to get the rights to do a cover so maybe she is more willing to have a cover of her tunes than others. Either way I’m probably going to use No for a warm-up or something once I get my head wrapped around the idea of finding time to choreograph again!

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