Tag Archives: Exercise

Health and Fitness at the Dollar Store

One of the biggest misconceptions some people have about getting fit is that it requires a significant investment of money in the beginning if you’re starting out with little to no equipment.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

A few nights ago, I took a stroll around a dollar store to see what kinds of health and fitness items they had for sale there. I jotted down everything I could find that could somehow be connected to this topic, and the list was much longer than I ever would have imagined it would be.

Seriously. I was expecting to find maybe ten things there, but I ended up finding closer to a hundred of them if every category is fully expanded to include every example in them.

This is what they had for sale there:

  • T-shirts
  • Hats
  • Sandals
  • Hair ties
  • Socks
  • Sports bras
  • Ponchos
  • Support insoles for shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Beach towels
  • Goggles
  • Bug Repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • First Aid supplies (bandaids, disinfectant, etc).
  • Plastic and metal buckets of various sizes (for transporting dirty or wet items back home)
  • Reusable plastic water bottles
  • Fishing poles
  • Headlamps
  • Small lanterns (if hiking or camping are on your to-do list)
  • Pet toys (for playing tug-of-war or fetch)
  • Pool toys
  • Toys and games for all ages/abilities (dart guns, dart boards, balls, chalk, jump ropes, etc)
  • Young children’s toys (plastic baseball bats, miniature golf clubs, etc)
  • Balloons (for water balloon fights or other similar games)
  • Beach toys (small shovels, plastic molds for making sandcastles, etc).
  • Frisbees
  • Rainbow flyers
  • Gardening tools (hand rakes, small shovels, etc).
  • Badminton rackets and balls
  • Plastic/rubber balls for other sports
  • Hula hoops
  • Sports equipment (rackets, balls, etc).
  • Yoga mats
  • Kettleballs
  • Resistance bands
  • Exercise wheels
  • Push up stands
  • Stretch bands
  • Roll out exercise wheels
  • Yoga mats
  • Yoga towels
  • Nonperishable, fairly healthy snacks (nuts, beef jerky, bottled water, canned fruit, applesauce.)
  • Many types of large reusable bags (for toting around everything on this list!)

Some of the items on this list did cost more than a dollar, but all of them were very inexpensive in general.

Whether I was planning to hike, swim, build sandcastles play any number of sports, jog, lift weights, stretch, do yoga, garden, go camping, or participate in any number of other activities, there were products for almost every type of exercise one could possibly imagine. I was seriously impressed by their selection.

Why am I recommending checking out your local dollar store if I believe in minimalism and buying quality over quantity?

There are a few reasons why this could be a smart idea under certain circumstances:

Not Everything Needs to be Well-Made in Order to be Useful

Several years ago, I bought a sun hat from the dollar store that suits my purposes perfectly when I want to exercise outdoors on a sunny day. Was it fashionable? Well, only if you’re a time traveller from 1995, but I’m not the kind of person who worries about how trendy I look when I’m working out.

Why spend $60 on something like that if you can spend $2 or $3 instead for the exact same outcome? For the kinds of activities I do, the type of hat doesn’t matter in the least. Anything that shades my face and neck from the sun will be more than adequate for my purposes.

It’s a Low-Cost Way to Try New Activities

For example, I like the idea of playing badminton. Every so often, I toy around with the thought of playing that sport as part of my fitness routine.

As mentioned above, the dollar store carries badminton equipment. While it isn’t made from high quality materials, it would be the perfect thing for me to play around with if I ever decide to finally add this sport to my list of preferred activities.

Spending a few dollars wouldn’t break the bank, and I could  go to a secondhand store or a regular store to find much sturdier equipment if I decided that this was something I wanted to play more than occasionally and my original racket broke.

Speaking of broken items….

Losing or Breaking A New Item Won’t Be So Disappointing

I’m very protective of the few possessions I have that are top-notch. Anyone who wants to borrow them has to earn my trust first, and I’d be horribly disappointed if they were damaged, lost, or destroyed in an accident or through someone else’s carelessness. There are certain places that I really wouldn’t want to take those items to due to the risks of them being exposed to the water, dirt, or sand that could ruin them.

The nice thing about dollar store purchases is that you don’t stand to lose hundreds or thousands of dollars if they’re accidentally broken or lost. I wouldn’t hesitate to lend out something like a hula hoop or a pool toy I bought from the dollar store to a friend or relative.

If that item was later returned to me in pristine condition, great! If not, I’ve only lost a few dollars at most. Replacing it won’t hurt my bottom line at all, so I don’t have a problem lending it out or taking it places where the risks of something happening are higher than usual.

What’s At Your Local Dollar Store?

Assuming you live in a part of the world that has dollar stores (or pound shops/variety stores, as they’re sometimes called), what kinds of health and fitness items have you spotted there?

I’d love to compare my list with yours!


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What I’m Not Willing to Give Up to Become Healthier

Over the last several years, I’ve started following multiple blogs and Twitter accounts that focus on fitness, nutrition, and wellness. I’ve made a lot of adjustments to my diet and lifestyle in order to make it healthier:

  • Lifting weights a few times a week
  • Getting a minimum of 12,000 steps a day
  • No longer drinking fruit juice
  • Switching from rice milk to almond milk to cut calories and added sugar in my diet.
  • Gradually increasing how many servings of vegetables I eat every day. I always ate enough fruit, but now I eat the recommended number of vegetable servings, too.

There have been many times when these sites suggested an ingredient tweak, a new recipe, or a workout routine that ended up working wonderfully for me. Some of them required a period of adjustment in the beginning, but I was soon able to adapt to them by keeping an open mind on changes that sounded even mildly interesting.

With that being said, there are a few things that I’m never going to stop eating because of how much I love them. I’m sharing them with you today to remind you that you don’t have to give up your favourite foods either. With an adjustment in how you make them or how often you serve them, anything can be part of a healthy diet.



A couple of years ago, I began stumbling across articles about people who peeled vegetables like zucchini into noodle shapes and then served them with spaghetti sauce on top to reduce the calorie count of this dish. They called those noodles “zoodles,” and some of the sites I follow posted multiple entries about different ways to prepare and serve them.

I think it’s great that they found a way to make a lighter version of spaghetti, but I will never make that same switch. Spaghetti is one of those meals that I really look forward to eating in the autumn and winter because of how much I love it.

While I was perfectly willing to switch to whole wheat noodles and replace some of the meat in my sauce with extra chopped vegetables, I’m only interested in eating spaghetti if it has real noodles in it.


Maple Syrup

Yes, there are low-calorie, sugar-free syrup substitutes out there that taste okay. I’m glad that people who are diabetic or who watch their calories closely can enjoy something similar to it without raising their blood sugar or eating more than they should.

I love maple syrup so much, though, that I’d much rather enjoy the real thing sparingly than have pancakes every week with imitation syrup on them. The sugar and calorie content in maple syrup is high, so I generally only have it a couple of times a month during the cold season.

When I do treat myself with this meal, I serve it with homemade whole wheat pancakes and sliced fruit. This makes this dish more filling and nutritious. The fact that I have it so sparingly also makes it even more special when I do decide to make it.



As I’ve mentioned in previous posts here, I cut back on the added sugars in my diet a few months ago. Chocolate and other sweets are a rare treat for both physical and mental health reasons. When I do indulge in them, I go straight for the good stuff.

If I’m going to eat chocolate, it will be something out of the ordinary. Most chocolate bars out there contain milk ingredients, but some of the speciality ones are surprisingly safe for me. I like dark, rich chocolate that satisfies you with a few small squares of it. Often I’ll choose dark chocolate that has nuts or dried fruit mixed into it. I’ve even found one brand of “milk” chocolate that’s safe for me. It’s specially marketed to people who are vegan or allergic to milk, and it’s delicious.

Some of the bars I love the most are between $5 and $10 each. Since I only eat them a few times a year, that splurge is more than worth it.

My other big indulgence is candy corn. I currently have a few containers of it squirrelled away in my cupboards now that it’s available again. I’m going to try to make them last through the winter. It’s not something I’ll eat every day, but it is something I’ll nibble on now and again.

What Do You Refuse to Give Up?

You don’t have to give up everything you love in order to become healthier. In fact, cutting all of the treats in life is a great way to crash and burn in a few days when your self control runs out.

Maybe some of the things I mentioned today are foods that you’re also determined to fit into a healthy diet. If so, cool! If not, what small changes are you able to make to your diet and daily habits? What favourite foods or drinks are you never going to be willing to give up?

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How to Keep Your Step Count Up During the Cold Season

monday-blogs-2As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, one of the first fitness goals I set for myself a few years ago when I wanted to get back into shape was to walk at least 10,000 steps a day.

Reaching this goal was much easier for me in the beginning when the weather was nice. A long, leisurely walk in autumn or spring could easily get me halfway or more to my goal before I even realized what was happening.

The cold season was an entirely different story, though. It was difficult at first to find ways to stay active when the streets were covered in icy slush and the outside temperatures were frigid.

This is a tricky time of year even now that my daily goal is much higher than 10,000 steps. With winter only about five weeks away, it’s time to start dusting off some of these tips again and preparing to stay active indoors until spring arrives again.

Today I wanted to share some of the tricks I’ve discovered over the last few years that help me reach my step count goals even when the weather is frightful. I hope that you’ll find them helpful, too. Let me know in the comment section below what you think of them.

Break Big Shopping Trips Into Smaller Ones

The cool thing about aiming for a specific step count goal is that every single step you take counts toward it. You definitely do not have to break a sweat every time you want to add to your tally.

One of the things I liked to do when I first started counting my steps was to chop up big grocery shopping trips into smaller excursions. I might have picked up milk, produce, and canned goods on Monday, and then gone back to the store on Tuesday for bread, meat, and frozen stuff.

It especially helps if you don’t shop for stuff that is all located in the same area of the store for that day’s trip! If you’re able to stick to your shopping list, this can be a great way to increase your step counts while still staying within your food budget.

Depending on how close your store is to your home and how many aisles you walk up and down, you could add several hundred to several thousand steps every day.

monday-blogs-1Go to the Mall

Malls are temperature-controlled, well-lit, and usually pretty safe places to visit.

There are almost always many other people around, especially at this time of year when the Christmas shopping season is starting to pick up speed.

While I strongly prefer to exercise outdoors, I can’t deny the fact that malls give people a convenient and casual gathering place if they’re looking to add more steps to their step counter or do some window shopping.

I know people who absolutely love walking around in this environment as well. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend doing it once if you live near a mall.

You may love it. You may be like me and not enjoy it so much. The only way to know for sure is to give it a shot, though.

This usually add two or three thousand steps to my count.

Pace Around While Doing Chores

If you’re waiting for a pot of water to start bubbling, walk around in circles in the kitchen.

If you’re waiting for the washing machine to buzz so you can switch your clothing over to the dryer, walk back and forth at your laundromat or in your basement until it’s finished.

If you’re vacuuming, dance a little jig to add in a few extra steps when you turn the corner or pull the vacuum to another room.

These are only a few of the many ways to add small amounts of movement int your life while you’re doing other things that also need to be accomplished.

They might not seem like they’d add up to much individually, but I’ve been surprised by how much they add up at the end of the day.

I generally add one thousand to three thousand steps to my tally on the days when I use this trick.

monday-blogs-4Walk to a TV Show

This is by far my biggest tip for people who seriously want to increase their step count but who’ve come to the end of their day without getting as much accomplished as they’d hoped.

Be sure to put down a yoga mat or something similar to that if you have hardwood floors before you try this one.

What I do is I march in place while watching whatever show it is that I’ve been looking forward to seeing today. You can do it as slowly or as quickly as you desire.

At a slow march, I can add three or four thousand steps this way in forty minutes or so. If I pick up the speed, I can double that number.

The right show will suck me into the storyline so completely that I barely even notice that I’m walking at the same time.


What are some of your favourite ways to add more movement in your day when the weather outdoors isn’t great?

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The “I Don’t Feel Like It” Workout

thursday-blogsSome days I roll out of bed with a content smile on my face while looking forward to my next workout.

My muscles might be a little sore the next morning, but it feels good to know that I challenged them and that I’ll be a little stronger than I was before when they knit themselves back together.

Today was not one of those magical days.

I woke up still feeling tired. The blustery, rainy weather made me want to crawl back under the covers and sleep for a few more hours. Maybe the sun would show up later on.

The last thing I wanted to do was pick up my weights or listen to the cheerful instructors talk about which muscle group we were focusing on as the video marched on.

One of the things I’ve learned over the past few years, though, is that “I Don’t Feel Like It” workouts are as valid and worthwhile as the ones you can’t wait to start.

You can workout while counting down the minutes until your final set of reps or laps around the block have been finished.

Muscles, lungs, and hearts don’t know the difference between you wanting to exercise and you wanting to do anything but that. They’re going to grow stronger either way.

You don’t have to pretend be chipper to workout. It’s totally okay to do your routine while feeling grouchy, sleepy, annoyed, or uninterested.

Not every workout is going to feel this way, either. There have been time when lifting weights or taking a brisk walk have left me feeling content.

Why did I used to feel like I had to put on a happy face in order to get the most out of exercise? No idea!

But releasing the expectation that every workout has to look like it came from the front page of a fitness magazine is a good thing.

I silently grumped my way through today’s exercise, but I still exercised.

Things could easily shift again the next time I pick up my weights or go for a walk.

The important thing is that you keep plugging along. Don’t you agree?


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How I Learned to Love Exercise

Monday Blogs PhotoGrowing up, I was one of those kids who deeply disliked gym class. I was small for my age and not naturally athletic in the least. While it was good for me to have the chance to discover that organized team sports weren’t my thing, it took years for me to figure out what kinds of exercise I actually did enjoy.

One of my biggest reasons for disliking gym class back then was that I find many vigorous forms of exercise to be downright painful. Jogging hurts my joints. Running up and down a field over and over again while trying to catch or kick a ball makes my lungs feel like they’re on fire. Smacking a hard volleyball against my arms is pretty uncomfortable as well. I’m not a masochist, so the idea of doing any of this stuff routinely for the sake of my health – much less for fun – was and is completely unappealing.

(This isn’t to say that you should avoid any or all of these activities! They may work beautifully for you regardless of what my heart, lungs, and joints think of them).

Moderate exercise is a different story for me. I’ll get a little winded on a brisk walk, when weightlifting, or while dancing, but their brief discomforts never tip the scale into actual pain. Not having to dread all of that pain has gone a long way to helping me actually enjoy being active.

One of the first workouts I started a few years ago was incredibly simple. I’d walk in place on top of a yoga mat while watching TV shows. It was something I chose because I really enjoy outdoor walks but couldn’t do one of those that day due to some terrible weather we were having in Toronto.

The only rule I set for myself was that I couldn’t stop moving until the show had ended. This is still something I fall back on when I’m feeling totally unmotivated to do anything physical at all. It’s easy to get so involved in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that I forget I’m moving at all. Sometimes I even decide to keep walking in place for just one more episode so that I can find out what happens to the characters next.

Trying a lot of different types of workouts has helped me to figure out what I actually like. A few years ago I never would have guessed that I’d love weightlifting, but it’s turned out to be a wonderful fit for me. There’s something immensely satisfying about being able to lift bags, furniture, and other objects that were once too heavy for you. It’s also fascinating to see your body slowly change its shape as a result of these kinds of workouts.

I’m planning to give yoga a try in the next week or two. I have no idea if I’ll love it or hate it, but I can’t wait to find out either way!

There are times when I enjoy the same routine so much that I keep doing it for weeks on end without making any adjustments at all. Would I be more physically fit if I challenged myself as soon as my current workouts are no longer quite so challenging? Yes, but that isn’t the only reason why I exercise. I’m not in this to become a body builder or a bikini model. I simply want to take good care of my body, and sometimes that means sticking to the same old stuff for a while until I’m emotionally and physically ready to try something new.

Completely cutting out any form of competition has helped me to learn to love exercise as well. Dividing people into winners and losers instantly kills my desire to play whatever game it is that’s been thrown together. The only people I exercise with are the ones who agree that whatever we’re doing is all strictly for fun. There’s no trash talking or keeping score when I’m involved, although I don’t have a problem watching other people be playfully competitive with each other if they enjoy that sort of thing!

What kinds of exercise do you like? What new kinds of exercise are you hoping to try in the near future? If you weren’t always a fan of it, how did you change your mind?


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