Cake for Breakfast

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Today, I missed my workout. Now normally I am pretty uncompromising about my workout time – I feel guilty about it on a regular basis but a bigger part of me knows that it is a non-negotiable if I am to remain somewhat sane. I always used to watch those oxygen mask demonstrations on airplanes and think that they had it kinda backwards when they said that if you were travelling with a child or dependant, put your own mask on and then look after your littles. Now I get it, but I learned the hard way that I must look after myself first or I am no good to anyone.

Anyway, my younger kid has been sick for the whole week and unable to go to school. Not catastrophically ill, but just enough that it would be irresponsible of us to send her into an environment with a lot of other children and germs and stress. She’s eleven – old enough to be left to her own devices for a little while at a time, and I did leave her home alone so that I could go train on Tuesday and Wednesday…but today I just couldn’t do it again. She was bored and lonely and sick of being sick, so I stuffed down my antsy need-to-go-train feelings and hung out with my kid. And you know what? We had an awesome afternoon. We went for coffee and cookies, took the dog out for a walk, and made dinner together: totally worth sacrificing training time.missed

…except that dammit, I still have this niggling sense that the day was missing something important.

I think I’d be more okay with missing one workout if I had the rest of life together but lately I kinda don’t. My nutrition has been kind of off as of late (not terrible but undisciplined), I’ve lost some sleep (looking after the sick kid), I’m not recovering well from training, and I just feel…well, a little worn out. But hey, that’s life, right? It won’t last forever and I’m not adding guilt into that mix because it wouldn’t help anything.

You know what would help? CAKE.

Specifically, cake that will get the ball rolling in the right direction again. But where to find such a cake? Fortunately, my friend Terri sent me an Epicure recipe for a breakfast bowl cake earlier this week, which we all tried and enjoyed…and then, since I cannot leave well enough alone and it is one of my missions in life to make sure everyone around me gets more protein and more vegetables, I started tinkering with it. So, without further ado, here is the recipe I’ve come up with!

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CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAKFAST CAKE

*note: yes, I’ve used a lot of Epicure products in here because I love them and I truly believe their products are a cut above what you’d find elsewhere. Do you have to use them? Nope, you totally could make this with grocery store products too, but if you’d like to give the Epicure ones a shot, fire me a message and I’ll send you Terri’s way – she’ll hook you up.

½ banana, mashed

1 egg

2tbsp. Milk

Mix these together in a microwave-safe bowl. Then, add the following:

½ scoop Epicure protein powder (you could use Vega as well but stick with a vegan protein powder; they tend to respond better to cooking)

¼ cup quick-cooking oats

1tbsp. cocoa

½ tsp baking powder

Stir until combined but act fast; once baking powder is in there the clock’s ticking and if you wait too long you will end up with a hockey puck instead of a yummy cake. Then, throw in

½ cup grated zucchini

1 tbsp chocolate chips (optional)

1 tbsp chopped walnuts (optional)

Microwave on high for 2-3 min, then remove from the microwave (careful, it’s hot) and flip your cake out onto a plate. While it’s cooling, mix

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

1 tbsp Epicure Red Velvet dip mix (I don’t know what you’d sub in for this – but seriously try the Epicure stuff especially since what makes it red is beets, not food coloring)

When the cake is relatively cool, cut it in half crosswise and spread your greek yogurt icing in the middle, then put the cake back together and frost it with the rest of the yogurt mix. Enjoy!

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Your February Survival Guide

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February is the worst, isn’t it? I always get to this point in the winter, feeling like I’m doing okay and I’m going to make it through, and then that second or third week of February hits and I lose the momentum that got me through December and January. Every February has moments that  find me debating whether or not to call my doctor and ask him to put me back on antidepressants. This year I’m doing better than most other years – I feel pretty fired up about life lately, but also I know what my patterns are and I’m doing my best to be proactive and stave off the late-winter doldrums.

It kinda helps to know I’m not alone here – I know there are lots of other people slogging through, just putting one foot in front of the other. Feeling their failures more acutely. Forgetting things. Getting up in the morning thinking today will be okay, and then something small happens to burst the bubble and it’s all they can do to not call a mulligan on the whole damn day and go home to bed.

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Unfortunately most of us are adults and there is adulting to do (and we don’t always have access to a dozen bunnies), so we can’t take that mulligan – we have to find a way to make it through the winter, ideally without losing our minds and maybe even enjoying life a little here and there. With that in mind, here’s a list of strategies that help me get through February.

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  1. Find a project. This could be something that you already work on that you dig into a little deeper, or it could be something new – anything that demands that you do some extra planning, and keeps you looking forward to the next day. It could be an exercise challenge (some that I’ve done are: a 30-day hot yoga challenge, 100 Triathlon Workouts in 100 Days starting anytime in Jan and ending 100 days later, and various other time-specific coaching programs), you could learn a new skill, or make a game out of finding new things to do where you live. Whatever you do, it needs a deadline and it needs a specific outcome to shoot for. My project for this month is to get my nutrition dialed back in; it’s been a struggle since Christmas. I’ve enlisted the help of the coaches at RP Strength to help me first get back on track and then turn into a jedi knight – I’ll keep you posted.
  2. Remember your New Year’s Resolutions? How are those going? Time to celebrate what you’ve accomplished so far and indulge in something that will inspire you and help you keep going – a new pair of shoes, new workout clothes, some coaching to shake things up. If your resolution has fallen on its face so far, don’t despair – see #1 and make a game out of it. Hell, it’s only February, you can still make some awesome things happen!
  3. Stay healthy! Get some extra sleep. Wash your hands. Drink lots of water. Encourage all the people around you who are dragging their butts in to work sick to stay at home and not share their germs. If that’s you bringing viruses to work and out into public places, stop that shit. Go home and rest – it’s the one time taking that mulligan is acceptable so milk it.
  4. Go outside. Yeah, I know, it’s cold and awful out there…but seriously, some sunlight and some time in nature will help, I promise. Chances are if you live in the northern hemisphere, you are scraping the bottom of your vitamin D stores at this point and they need some replenishment. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a Vitamin D supplement if you aren’t already.funny-winter-sports-walkonwater-600x400
  5. Exercise. Yes yes, I know you hear that from me all the time. But seriously, if for no other reason, exercise is a really effective anti-depressant. In lots of cases if you go to your doctor to talk about treatments for depression, odds are good that they will recommend regular exercise before they’ll recommend a course of treatment involving pills. So, I don’t care what you do – walking, moving heavy things around, dancing, yoga, etc – but get moving every day. You will be better off physically and mentally, I promise.
  6. Eat right. You don’t have to be perfect, but avoid the temptation to drown your winter blahs in sugar and salt and starch. I know that sometimes it seems like the only possible thing to do, but trust me – it will not make you feel better over the long term. Throwing your diet off balance can have a host of undesirable side effects including (but not limited to) depression, weight gain (we knew that one already though, right?), a depressed immune system, and over the long term really nasty things like diabetes and heart disease. Besides, those are only french fries/cupcakes/whatever; they don’t have the power to change your situation.
  7. Learn! I’m a big geek so this is my go-to every damn day to keep things fresh. But also, since it’s early in the new year, I try to plan out where my continuing education is going to come from. Ideally this includes a trip somewhere which needs planning and involves some exploring, meeting some new people, and shaking up the status quo. Even if it’s six months down the road it’s something to look forward to. You don’t even have to go far: one of my favorite learning weekends in 2016 took me to Athabasca, AB which is only a 90-ish minute drive from where I live, but it was somewhere that I hadn’t really explored before. So, stretch your wings a little bit and find a course to take! It could be career related, something practical and useful like a cooking class, or something that fires up your creativity and brings you joy like music lessons, painting, or learning a new language.
  8. Communicate. People who know me well will read that word and laugh, saying that that’s pretty freaking rich coming from me; I can seriously make an olympic sport out of being reclusive and avoiding social contact. But, for all of you introverts who would prefer to hide away at the best of times and right now going out in the cold requires colossal effort, NOT communicating with other people will only lead to an overwhelming to-do list of calls, emails, and social engagements. Head off the guilt and actually schedule a couple of hours each week to answer emails, return calls, and catch up with friends.win1
  9. Keep a journal. Specifically, a daily win journal. Now, I know how self-help-y that sounds and everyone has heard it before…but hear me out one more time because this WORKS. Go buy a notebook. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive although if that’s how you roll, go right ahead and spend the money on that beautiful leather-bound journal, but a fifty-cent coil notebook will work just as well. It does have to be an actual notebook though – not a file in your computer, an app in your phone, or loose pages that will get lost. A NOTEBOOK. Before you go to sleep at night, make a quick list of the positive things that happened that day. Again, make it yours – if you don’t particularly like writing, it could be a quick list in bullet form, or if you enjoy the journaling process write as much as you like. No rules except this one: take a few minutes at the end of every day to jot down what made you happy. Commit to it for thirty days (again see #1) and see what happens!
  10. Lift up the people around you. Small gestures like random compliments, little acts of service, and paying genuine attention to people makes a huge difference. And spreading love will make you feel a million times better no matter how cold or dark or nasty the last half of February feels.

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Okay y’all, go forth and make the best of it!

PSA: New Year’s Day Has Been Rescheduled

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I had a revelation the other day while I was watching a video I had taken of a set of my own squats. I try and take some video footage of my lifts at least a couple of days a week; not for vanity’s sake but so that I can step back and cast my trainer’s eyeballs on what’s actually going on. There’s no more valuable tool in the gym than the video app on your phone. Anyway, I was watching myself squat from behind, and, okay – I admit it – being super mean to myself over the size of my ass in the video. Now, I did what I usually do when those thoughts creep in: I pushed them aside because they are no good to me, and moved on. They were still hanging around after I finished my training session though, and on my way home I resolved to be better. Tighten up my nutrition, do some cardio, and start taking care of business so that I don’t end up calling myself names in the gym like a big mean bully.

Here’s the thing. Leading up to the holiday season I was doing really well. I was on track to get where I wanted to be by the end of January. I was tracking my calories and macronutrient intake and feeling pretty damn good…and then at Christmastime I took three days off and didn’t worry about it. I had a plan for getting myself dialed back in after the three days; it was a little stricter than I had been for the weeks leading up to Christmas but that was okay because I wanted it. I was ready. I was SO FREAKING CLOSE.

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Except that when I tried to get on that plan, I failed on the first day. And then the next. And again. I decided that I needed some time to get back to ‘good’ before I could be perfect. Baby steps.

It occurred to me that New Year’s Resolutions are screwed before you even make them, you know why? Because Christmas, that’s why: we’re chugging along doing okay before the holidays, and then along comes this week (or more) where ALL BETS ARE OFF. We eat too much, we drink too much, we go to bed late, get up late…and then we resolve to turn it all upside down on January 1st and be better than before. No wonder most resolutions fail.

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Tell me if this doesn’t sound crazy: you’re chugging along doing okay in life. Maybe not where you want to be in a perfect world, but okay. Then December happens and there are parties, gatherings, concerts, galas, extra food, extra cooking and baking to do, shopping, drinking…add that to all the stuff you’re obliged to do anyway, like go to work, look after your family, take care of your house, etc (because you don’t get a break from that just because it’s December). Add in flu season, vitamin D deficiency (if you live far enough north like I do and there are only a few hours of sunlight a day), stress, more stress, fatigue, sugar EVERYWHERE but it’s okay if you medicate with sugar; January’s coming and we’re all gonna be PERFECT so we might as well get it all out of our systems now. Right?

So then Jan 1st appears, the morning after the world’s biggest party. It’s cold and dark and you’re exhausted. But never mind that! It’s the new year motherfuckers, time to get on that cleanse and eat clean and be perfect. Drag your head out of the toilet, slam some wheatgrass juice, and get to spin class!

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Crazy, right?

I think if there has to be requisite madness in December, then there should be a month of quiet in January to catch up on sleep, get our houses in order, reflect, re-establish some normal behaviour patterns, and THEN you can talk to me about New Year’s Resolutions.

So with that in mind, I pulled out the plan I had for getting back on track after Christmas and started it again this week. It’s going waaay better this time around – going from pretty good to awesome is a much easier switch to make than FUBAR to awesome.

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume that lots of them are either forgotten or on the back burner because it takes most of January to re-establish normal life. Maybe now because we’re into February you are starting to beat yourself up just a wee bit for not getting started or for not being consistent right off the bat.

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If that sounds like you, stop that shit. Stop it right now. Instead, take that energy you were spending on stewing and berating yourself and use it to take the next positive step – but here’s the catch: it has to be action. No more “that’s it, I’m starting tomorrow” or “next week” or whatever your thinky brain wants to throw out there to justify the status quo. Get the ball rolling: go buy some groceries, prepare some healthy food, drink a glass of water, do a set of bodyweight squats, or three 10-second planks. Do it now. Yes, right now. I’ll wait.

Okay, you’re on your way! Time to stop feeling guilty for any perceived failures in January – you didn’t fail, you just needed time to re-establish normal before you take those steps toward getting better.

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Beefy Shoulders, Moose Knuckles, and the Right Exercise Program

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I try and post a lift or two on social media once a week, maybe twice. I think it’s important to stay visible in my line of work, so that anyone who wants to find me can accomplish that fairly easily. It’s also a training log of sorts; it keeps me accountable to myself…also I use an iphone (which has actually turned into an embarrassing thing; well done Apple, you bunch of pricks) so I have such pitifully little storage space that any pics and videos I take on my phone must be stored elsewhere for future reference, before I delete them all. Taking and posting pics and videos of myself is something that does not come naturally to me at all; I have to force myself to do it but it at this point I can tell you honestly that it has had its benefits. One benefit is that I’ve gotten used to seeing myself on video and it is no longer a mortifying, uncomfortable experience. I have a much easier time watching video footage of myself and just looking at the lift now than I did a year ago. I can even giggle at my neck veins and angry pooping mother seal face! But it also means that I can be my own coach when my coach isn’t standing there watching me work.

Another, more obvious benefit to posting video footage of myself is that it’s good for business; it allows me to demonstrate that I practice what I preach as a trainer/coach and that I get a lot of joy out of training, and it attracts potential clients that want to train the way I do. This is a double-edged sword though, because something new has happened over the last little while: there has been a sharp increase in messages in my inbox that go something like this: “I wish I could do what you do! I want to come train with you but I need to get in shape first.”

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Where to even start? How about here: if you want to get better at anything, it’s ALWAYS good to get some instruction. ALWAYS. It doesn’t matter where you are on the learning curve. If you look at anyone who does anything really well, 99.99% of the time they had to get some guidance from somewhere at some point (yes, I know there are the freaks of nature out there who are naturally amazing at stuff – if you are one of those people then congratulations! You can stop reading right now because I’m talking to the other 99.99% of the population). Ever watch the Olympics? Ever see an athlete who didn’t have a coach? How about a great musician who has never studied with anyone else? Or how about people who have built really successful businesses? Chances are they had a mentor along the way. The truth is, we need to lean on people who are better than us in order to be better.

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Getting fit and strong is a learned skill, just like any other worthwhile endeavor…which means finding someone who can teach you how to do it right and keep you accountable is pivotal to your success. The sooner you do it, the better, too, because nailing in the right habits early on can help you avoid a host of problems later. This goes double for you if you are like most adults out there and have some health considerations to work around (joint pain, injuries, diabetes, arthritis, mental illness, etc.) So do you need to get in shape to hire a personal trainer? HELL NO. We are here to make sure you get started on the right path, stay healthy and injury free, and eventually get where you want to go. Stupid weight loss reality shows are just about the worst thing that has happened to the fitness industry because they portray trainers as these insane, loud, judgemental neo-nazi-esque cartoon characters who can barely see past their own narcissism and have no time for dealing with the real, multi-dimensional human beings that are their clients. We’re not actually like that. Well, not most of us.

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The good coaches out there (myself included since this is my article and I can say what I want, ha ha) care about learning not only who you are, but where you are both physically and mentally. We need to know this stuff so that we can design an exercise program that will work for you. It needs to be challenging without being overwhelming, and it needs to give you what you need so that you get the end result that you want. There’s a lot of planning that goes into making sure your exercise program fits all aspects of you.

So, if you hire me to be your trainer/coach does that mean you’re going to train the way I do?

Well, that depends on your goals. If you are already strong and healthy, have been working out for a while, have good movement patterns, lots of mobility, have lots of time to invest in training (like, 12 hours/week plus), and want to train for a powerlifting competition, then yes, your program probably will look something like mine. Otherwise, probably not, because my goal is to get you what you want.

Story time: many years ago I did a consultation with a woman who had just joined the gym. Her goal was to lose weight (she had about 40lbs to lose) but she didn’t want to do any strength training because she didn’t want to get big and bulky. No problem, I said; women don’t generally grow huge muscles unless they are trying really hard specifically to grow huge muscles, and even then it’s not easy to do. I went on to explain some of the reasons why strength training is an important part of any woman’s fitness program but she interrupted me mid-sentence by poking me roughly in the shoulder. “Look at your shoulders,” she said. “You see how they stick out like that? That’s ugly. That’s not what I want.”

Now, this happened long before I started powerlifting and at the time my shoulders were not noticeably huge. I didn’t think so, anyway. I did my level best to keep a straight face and assure her that her exercise program and mine weren’t going to look the same but she was adamant: there was going to be no strength training.

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Anyway. Any trainer worth their salt is not going to give you their own exercise program (unless that’s what you want, but even then we are all special snowflakes and any cookie cutter program will need some tweaking to make it more effective). Can you get good results from a program that some hack is giving away on Instagram? Maybe. It depends on how well the program fits you. Look at it this way: getting a program out of a magazine, or online, or wherever is like buying your jeans at Costco. You can’t try them on; you just have to guess that you have the right pair – I mean they’re Calvin Klein for cripes sake and they’re only twenty bucks, how can you go wrong? – and only when you get them home and put them on do you find out that they are horrible Mom Jeans that cover your navel, have pleats at the waist, and after taking six steps in them they’ve ridden up and caused moose knuckles. Not cool, and now you’re stuck with them until you can take them back (at least Costco is good about that) but you still need a pair of jeans.

Now, if you were to throw the store idea right out the window and go straight to hiring a tailor to make a PERFECT pair of jeans just for you, would you be somewhat taken aback if that tailor took their own pants off and passed them to you? You bet your ass you would.

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Which is a very long way around to saying, finding the right trainer/coach is worth it, whether you are just starting out or you’ve been doing this fitness thang for a while. We can make sure you stay safe, healthy, and get to your goals – YOUR goals – the right way, and if we can help you enjoy the process that makes it even better.

Stay tuned: how to find that coach is up next!