Category Archives: Fitness

3 Things I Like About Yoga

women doing yoga

While I briefly dabbled with trying yoga once many years ago, I actually dove into it for real a couple of weeks ago.

With all of the restrictions on when and why we’re permitted to leave our homes in Toronto these days due to the Covid-19 epidemic, this seemed like the perfect time to branch out and try something new.

Here are a few wonderful things that have stood out to me about this form of exercise as I’ve been acclimating to it. I’m keeping this post short and sweet because I’m still so new to yoga in general. Perhaps I’ll write longer posts about it in the future!

If any of you have been doing this form of exercise longterm, I’d sure love to hear your favourite things about it as well.

The Focus on Balance and Flexibility

Black silhouettes of various yoga posts against a white background. All of my other regular workout routines are heavily immersed in cardio and strength training exercises.

Yoga requires my body to bend and flex in ways that are quite different from dancing or lifting weights.

Instead of bracing myself to lift a heavy load or pivot to a new dance move, I’m learning how to better hold my balance with a tricky position and gently stretch just a little bit further every time.

The Attention Paid to Breathing Patterns

Dandelion seeds being blown away from a mature dandelion plant. Breathing isn’t something I consciously think about with other forms of exercise unless I’m out of breath for them.

Even then, the only aspect of it that crosses my mind is generally how many seconds or minutes are left until my body can slow down and catch up on some of the air it requires.

The incredible thing about yoga is how much your breath matter even though I’ve yet to become out of breath with any of the poses I’ve done so far.

I’ve actually started to pay closer attention to my breathing during times of the day when I’m not exercising as well as a result of these workouts.

It’s so interesting to see how these sessions are affecting me in that way. This wasn’t something I was expecting to happen at all.

The Reinforcement of Mindfulness

White clouds against a bright blue skyYoga is the slowest type exercise I’ve ever discovered. Everything about it encourages me to pay close attention to what I’m currently doing and think of nothing but holding my current pose.

There is something incredibly relaxing about turning away from all of the distractions of the world we currently live in and existing in a moment.

The fact that I can do that while also getting a good workout in only makes it better.

My Final Update on My Walk to Mordor

Photo of red, mountainous region that looks like Mordor
Photo Credit: Dawn Endico

Last spring I blogged about my plans to walk to Mordor. I updated my progress at the end of August when I was a third of the way through with it and again in November when I was about two-thirds finished.

For anyone who needs a refresher or wasn’t following me when this series began, Walk to Mordor is a free app that lets you chart your miles walked every day and gives you updates on where Frodo and Sam were when they’d travelled the same distance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

As I mentioned in previous updates, my kilometres logged varied quite a bit once again for the last third of the journey. I came down with influenza for the first time in many years at the end of December. It was an unpleasant experience that slowed down my progress in this journey. Some days I only logged a kilometre or two of walking, and the recovery period took a while as well.

It’s probably a good thing that none of the good guys in the Lord of the Rings saga caught the flu while they were travelling. They would have been in for a pretty miserable time if they had. Although maybe the elves would have had a secret remedy for that illness?

Pandemic Distraction

Finishing up this trek was a nice distraction, especially during the last part of it when Coronavirus began shutting down so many places to go in Toronto. I’m quite lucky to be able to work from home, but the days do feel long now that I only leave home for walks and occasional visits to the grocery store or drug store.

Reading updates on where Frodo and Sam were and what they were doing in the last third of their adventure has been a wonderful distraction. The challenges we face are obviously quite different from theirs, but I’m seeing interesting parallels between their journey and what we’re all facing this spring.

Like Sam and Frodo, we live in dangerous times where the future is uncertain. All we can do is put one foot in front of the other and do our best to keep pressing forward.

I Recommend This App

Screenshot of progress on Lord of the Rings walking app. It shows that all destinations have been reached. I’d definitely recommend checking out this app to anyone who is interested in the fantasy genre, keeping track of their fitness goals, and/or getting distracted by something useful.

As I mentioned earlier in this series, this is something that can be used for competitive or  non-competitive purposes. There are no time limits on how long you can use it. People who want to push themselves to walk or run more often can do so, but it’s also accessible to folks who move at a slower pace or who don’t like the idea of turning exercise into a competition.

Reading the plot updates is reward enough. There was no need to add any extra layers of pressure to this game, so I’m glad the developer kept it so simple.

The image in this section of the post shows what the screen looks like after you complete all of the challenges. It was nice to see that long, green list of completed challenges.

One of the things I did have trouble with while participating in this challenge was remembering to log my kilometres walked every day. The app doesn’t have any sort of notification system to remind you to do that. Sometimes I’d have to log several days to a week’s worth of activity. Once I got very behind and logged about a month’s worth of data at once!

With that being said, this is a free game, so I wouldn’t expect it to have all of the bells and whistles that a paid app would have.

If anyone knows of similar games out there, I’d sure like to hear about them. It’s never too early to start planning for amusing things to use next winter.

3 Reasons Why I Take the Stairs Instead of the Elevator

Photo of person's legs and orange shoes as they climb a flight of blue stairs.

I’m writing this post from the perspective of someone who is able-bodied and still fairly young. Taking the stairs isn’t the right choice for everyone, so listen to your body and your family doctor if this post doesn’t resonate with you. 

When was the last time you took the stairs?

This question popped into my head last month, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

When given the choice between taking the stairs, elevator or escalator, my preferences have shifted in the direction of the stairs for the following reasons.

It’s Faster

Dozens of lego figures crowded together
Toronto is a bustling city. No matter what time of day or night it is here, you will almost certainly be surrounded by dozens to thousands of other people while going about your daily (or nightly) business.

There are many advantages to living this way that don’t quite fit into the theme of this post.

One of the disadvantages has to do with how crowded elevators and escalators can become, especially on the weekends and during rush hour. Elevators and escalators are in heavy demand. They would be crowded even if the only people who used them were chronically ill, physically disabled, pushing a stroller, or carrying a heavy load.

The fact that people who could take the stairs also use them only increases the demand for them. I don’t judge anyone for this decision, but I do personally find it more comfortable to avoid all of that jostling and take the stairs instead.

Why fight for a space on the escalator or wait five minutes for the next elevator when the stairs are right around the corner and mostly empty?

It’s a Mini Workout

Woman running down a flight of stairs by a forestOne of the things I enjoy the most about living in a walkable neighbourhood is how much exercise is built into my normal activities.

While I have a structured fitness routine as well, half or more of the total exercise I get each day comes from mini workouts that happen in short spurts while I’m running errands or travelling somewhere.

Taking the stairs is one of these things I do regularly that only takes a few minutes here and there but adds up to a few extra hours of exercise per week.

In my experience, turning small, easy lifestyle changes like this into habits is an excellent way to become more fit over time. I’d never do this sort of exercise for two or three hours in a row, but I have no problem putting the same amount of time in if it’s two or three hours spread across an entire week (or more).

And the more I take the stairs, the stronger my urge to do it becomes over time.

It Doesn’t Require Special Equipment

Girl holding handrailI don’t know about you, but I have a strong preference for types of exercise that don’t require me to change clothes, travel to a specific place, or use a particular piece of equipment.

Blame it on my negative experiences with elementary and high school gym class if you will. All I know is that it takes far less emotional energy to make a quick decision to walk up or down a few flights of stairs when the opportunity presents itself than it does to change into gym clothes, travel to a gym, exercise, shower, change into regular clothes, and then go home again.

I believe in gravitating towards types of exercise that work for your fitness level, interests, and willpower (or lack thereof). For me, that means taking the stairs more often.

3 Reasons Why You Should Try Mall Walking

Person wearing brown boots and blue denim. The're standing on snow and their boots are caked in snow. Mall walking is a form of exercise involving people walking briskly through the long corridors of shopping malls before the stores open for the day when there are very few other folks about.

This is the time of year when I begin to yearn for spring. It’s one thing to experience snowstorms in November and December when the memory of summer is still fresh in everyone’s minds.

Winter weather somehow feels even colder and snowier when it’s been happening for a couple of months already and can be expected to keep popping up for at least two more of them.

Luckily, Toronto has plenty of malls to walk around in while the temperatures plunge and snow falls outside. There is definitely something to be said for taking advantage of all of that dry, temperature-controlled space until April arrives.

If you haven’t tried mall walking yet this winter, here are three reasons why it might be a good idea to give it a shot.

It’s Scaleable

Child running up a flight of stepsWalking can be made as easy or as difficult as it needs to be to meet your current fitness goals.

It can be a short, gentle stroll through the mall for someone who is brand new to exercise or just coming back to it after an accident or illness.

A long, brisk power walk might be a good choice for someone who has been exercising for a while and wants to increase their endurance.

I’ve even seen people run up multiple flights of stairs while on walks in order to give their muscles and cardiovascular systems a bigger challenge. Note: I don’t recommend this one on busy days at the mall or other public places!

It’s as Sociable or Solitary as You Prefer

Two people walking indoors. There is a large wall filled with glass windows behind them. I’m the sort of person who loves walking with a partner or group of people. There’s something about walking and talking that makes both of those things much more appealing to me than they’d be on their own.

The nice thing about walking at a mall is that either of these options is perfectly safe and acceptable.

There are certain places like parks that I don’t feel safe visiting early in the morning and late at night when few other folks are around because I am a short, petite woman. This is even more true during the winter when the sun rises late and sets early.

Malls always have security guards patrolling them, and no matter how early I might show up in the morning I’ve always seen other mall walkers there as well.

I really like being able to get a walk in at the mall by myself or with someone else without needing to think about safety factors like these.

It’s Warm, Dry, and Indoors

People walking around in a brightly lit mallTaking an outdoor walk on a warm, spring day in Ontario is a pleasant experience.

In February? Not so much. Our winters can be beautiful, but they’re also generally wet, icy, and freezing cold for months on end.

While I definitely prefer walking outdoors, it is nice to have a place to go during the winter where you can unzip your coat and walk around without slipping on any ice or snow.

Malls have plenty of flat, even surfaces to walk on. The ones I visit are kept very clean and dry, especially if you visit early in the day before the biggest crowds show up.

There are times during winter and early spring when I impatiently wait for the weather to warm up again. I doubt I’ll ever look forward to this part of the year, but I do appreciate having such nice places to move around in while the weather outdoors is cold, icy, snowy, muddy, rainy, and sometimes all of those things at once in a single day!

If you live near a mall, how often do you go there to exercise?

My Review of the 30-Minute Cardio Latin Dance Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to give out medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other workout routine. 

In addition, I’m not being compensated for this post and have no affiliation with the creators. There is never affiliate marketing of any sort on my site.

About the 30-Minute Cardio Latin Dance Workout

This is a 30-minute dance workout. There are warmup and cooldown exercises included in it.

If you’ve never done a cardio dance workout routine before, I’d recommend either starting with Bipasha Basu’s 30-Minute Aerobic Dance Workout instead or embracing all of the modified moves that one of the dancers demonstrates for the audience if you’re up for a challenge. This routine is not intended for beginners in my opinion.

I’d recommend either wearing a supportive pair of shoes or putting down a yoga mat or other soft but non-slippery surface for all of the jumping you’re about to do. No other equipment is necessary.

30-Minute Cardio Latin Dance Workout 

My Review

It’s been a few months since I added this workout to my regular rotation, and I absolutely love it.

I had no experience with salsa or merengue dancing before trying this workout. If any of my followers do have experience with those dance styles, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this routine!

One of the best things about these styles of dance is that they repeat the same moves over and over again in various combinations and patterns. While it definitely took me time to get all of the moves down fairly accurately, it was nice to start to understand it right away.

If I didn’t have the exact pattern memorized yet, it was really easy to pick something similar and keep moving. This is something that I haven’t been able to do in every dance workout I’ve tried, so I definitely appreciated the fact that I was able to wing it a little in the beginning while I was still getting used to how everything fit together. That extra challenge was a small but important part of the reason why I stuck around after the first time I tried it.

 Nicole Steen and other dancers in the Popsugar 30-minute Cardio Latin Dance VideoThe dancers in this video are energetic. This was especially true for Nicole Steen who was leading the routine. I couldn’t help but to smile at the jokes she cracked and the many techniques she used to keep the energy high in her backup dancers.

Dancing is one of those things that can easily perk up my mood, so the combination of getting to do one of my favourite forms of exercise with having such an upbeat instructor worked really well for me.

I also appreciated the fact that this routine can be done in a fairly small space. Yes, you move around a lot in it, but you’re not leaping from one corner of the room to the next if that makes sense. Instead, dancers tend to do a lot of bending, twisting, and shaking. My apartment is a tiny one, but I always had enough space to copy the dancers (once I figured out what to expect from them next!)

The modifications were also a nice touch. I had enough experience with other types of cardio-heavy styles of dancing that I didn’t end up using them, but it was reassuring to know that I could drop down to less intense moves if necessary. This also was a feature that convinced me to leave the door open for people who don’t have a lot of dance experience to give this a shot. With less twisting and jumping to worry about, picking up on the moves sure seems like it would be easier.

Honestly, I can’t recommend this workout highly enough. It’s a great deal of fun and something I’m planning to keep doing for the foreseeable future.

Previous Reviews of Free Youtube Workout Routines:

The Challenging Chair Workout 

Bipasha Basu’s 30-Minute Aerobic Dance Workout

Fitness Blender’s Brutal Butt & Thigh Workout

Fitness Blender’s Ab Blasting Interval Workout

Fitness Blender’s Toned, Lean Arms Workout 

3 Things I Love About Walking in a Winter Wonderland

This post is the final instalment of a four-part series I’ve been slowly working on about walking during each season of the year. Click on the links in this sentence to read about the things I love about spring hikes, summer strolls, and autumn hikes. Winter is my least favourite season. The  cold temperatures, short… Read More

3 Things I Love About Summer Strolls

It’s time for the third instalment in my series about hiking – or, in this case, strolling –  during the various seasons. If you’re a new reader or would like to reread my previous posts, I’ve also written about the things I love about spring and autumn hikes. Eventually, I’ll finish this series off with a… Read More