• Choosing an Active Pregnancy by Melanie Osmack

    Pregnant 3 quarters_vertical_blue_bicept curlSaying that there are a lot of decisions to make during pregnancy would be an understatement.  The decision whether or not to exercise during pregnancy can be influenced by lack of information, conflicting information, cultural beliefs and personal feelings.


    Why exercise during pregnancy?

    The Society of Obstetricians and Gynacologists of Canada (SOGC) work together with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) and leading researchers in the field to create national guidelines and recommendations.  The consensus is that all healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies should do regular cardiovascular exercise and muscular conditioning, regardless of previous activity level or trimester.  Why?  Research points to reduced aches and pain, shortness of breath, swelling and varicose veins.   It also points to improved energy, posture, mood and general health.  Regular exercise also plays an important role in preventing and managing gestational diabetes and has shown to improve the cardiovascular health of babies.  In fact, The American College of Sport Medicine and other researchers suggest that exercise is medicine for pregnant women.


    What should I focus on?

    Cardio: If you are a beginner, aim for 15 minutes of low impact cardiovascular exercise, 4 times a week.  For example power walking, low impact aerobics or aquafit.  Be sure to warm up, cool down and stretch.  If you are already active, continue with the cardiovascular exercise you are used to (assuming it does not put you at risk of falling or physical contact) but stick to the maximum 30 minutes, 4 times a week guideline.  Use the PARmed-X for Pregnancy form to monitor intensity.


    Strength: You need to be strong for pregnancy, labour and parenting.  Seek out out a prenatal fitness class or personal trainer who is certified to work with pregnant women.  They can help set up a well-rounded program that is both safe and effective.


    Flexibility: Modern life and parenting both use more push muscles than pull muscles.  To put it another way, the muscles of the chest, biceps and front of the shoulders tend to be tighter than the muscles of the back, triceps and back of the shoulder.  Keep this in mind when choosing your stretches.


    What should I avoid?

    When it comes to cardio, avoid activities you are not used to or that put you in danger of falling, physical contact or overheating.  Stick to the guidelines on the PARmed-X for Pregnancy form.


    Avoid lying flat on your back for fitness from 16 weeks of pregnancy.  It could interrupt blood flow and leave you feeling dizzy or nauseated.  If you are diagnosed with an abdominal separation, avoid exercises that engage your ‘six-pack muscles’.  Stay away from abdominal curls, crunches, sit-ups, push-ups or front planks.  Instead focus on pelvic floor (Kegels) and transverses abdominals (hugging baby towards your spine).


    Here are some resources to get you started

    PARmed-X for Pregnancy

    Prenatal Fitness Guidelines

    Abdominal Separation- What you need to know
    5 Minute Pelvic Floor Routine


    About the author

    Melanie Osmack is the founder and director of Fit 4 Two®.  She is a certified pre and postnatal fitness specialist, personal trainer, fitness instructor, yoga teacher and mom of two.   Fit 4 Two offers classes and personal training throughout the lower mainland.  Click here for a full listing.


  • 5 Fun Fitness Ideas











    Has your typical fitness routine has become stale and boring?
    It happens to the best of us: that new healthy lifestyle that was so energizing and filled with promise a couple of months ago starts to lose its appeal and our motivation falters.

    Whether you prefer to exercise at home, outdoors or in a class, our health oriented city offers something for everyone.  From yogasilks to archery-here are 5 fun fitness ideas to reignite your motivation to stay active.

    Off your mat, into the air, with a hint of Cirque du Soleil! Che Baba is the first yoga studio to offer this experience in Vancouver.  Yogasilks enable you to work with gravity – less pressure on the joints allows you to create more space within and release more tension. Securely fastened above, zero compression inversions come with ease. Build your core by using the little muscles that you don’t use while being restricted by gravity while standing.

    They offer a Foundation Series where you flow through a series including standing poses, hip openers and inversions. They also offer a Restorative Series where the silks are dropped lower to the ground in order to support the body in restorative yoga poses. In this series, poses are held for up to 5 minutes with the intention of releasing, unwinding and deep relaxation. Open to all levels. Please contact Che Baba to reserve your spot. Ten silks available.

    The sport is easy to learn, virtually inexpensive (compared to other winter sports), poses little risk of injury and is a great way to exert energy during the cold winter months. Snowshoeing can be a lot of fun and great exercise if done with proper technique and in a safe area.
    A number of ski areas near Vancouver offer trails and guided tours for snowshoers. Trek on pristine trails at   Cypress Mountain or explore the developed snowshoe parks at Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour. For a special treat, book a guided evening snowshoe fondue tour. Trails weave through alpine forests, past frozen lakes, and to high points where snowshoers can enjoy a view of the city and the water. Snowshoe equipment rentals are available at many of the larger snowshoe areas; many outdoor stores also have rentals.

    Ugi Fit
    Looking for a workout you can do right in the comfort of your living room? UgI is a local fitness company start up that has appeared on the CBC’s Dragon’s Den and has been named one of the Globe and Mail’s “…favourite small businesses of 2011”.
    The Ugi ball works as a functional fitness training tool because it challenges the exerciser to use entire muscle groups at one time. A lifetime of professional training experience went into creating the Ugi 5 day a week, 30-minute, total functional fitness program. The series of one-minute exercises are efficient enough to change your body completely – from warm up, cardio, strength conditioning, balance to cool down, and flexible enough to be done anywhere – from home, gym, beach to office.

    Body Rolling
    Body rolling is a workout, a massage and a chiropractic adjustment rolled into one! As you roll through your body on a 6″ to 10″ inflated rubber ball, you essentially tone and lengthen muscles, stimulate bones, and release energy blockages. You let go of unproductive patterns in your body. Body rolling allows you to work specific muscles in detail, to create suppleness in tight areas and optimize range of motion.  For classes and workshops being offered in Vancouver check out Vancouver Body Rolling by Micheline.

    Archery is ideal for giving your upper body a workout. It improves upper body strength as well as coordination and balance, which is important. If your balance and coordination are good you are less likely to trip over your own feet, colliding with the floor and breaking a bone in the process.
    The physical benefits of archery include increasing flexibility in your hands and fingers and developing your arm strength. In addition, hand-eye coordination improves, as does mental concentration and mental strength. A successful archer must know how to free his mind from distractions and focus on his target, which makes archery both a beneficial mind exercise as well as a great form of physical exercise.  To find archery classes in Vancouver check out Academie Duello  or North Shore Archers

  • Energize Your Life

    Ashley Charlebois is a Registered Dietitian with a private consulting business based in Vancouver BC.  She specializes in sports nutrition and digestive health.  Ashley works with a variety of athletes ranging from the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, national and provincial level athletes, to individuals just starting to include more physical activity in their lives.  On the digestive health front, growing up with IBS inspired Ashley to specialize in this are to help others treat their illness an discomfort with diet.  She collaborates with gastroenterologists in the city to further improve the health of individuals with IBS, Chrohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis and other digestive disorders.

    This month Ashley shares her personal experience and expertise on how proper nutrition can be used to fuel your life and keep you energized through out the day.

    How to Energize Your Life

    Ever feel fatigued halfway through your workout? Feel like you want to push yourself harder but physically are just unable to? How about that mid-afternoon slump during the workday where you just can’t get anything done? It all comes down to energy levels. And guess what – diet has a huge part to play.

    Last week during the second half of an intense cycle class at the gym I was feeling… fantastic! I looked around, and it made me feel even stronger, because I seemed to be one of the few that was able to keep up with the instructor, an elite cyclist. How could this be? I am in no way an elite cyclist. Yes, I do enjoy biking, I do have a good base level of fitness, and I am determined to regularly challenge my body physically. But I hadn’t been to a cycle class for weeks before this one, yet alone started to commute daily to work by bike (that started this past week when the sun came out!). I am 100% convinced that the reason I could push hard throughout the hour long class was because of my diet. I had a pre-workout snack, yogurt and fruit, high in carbs (our primary source of fuel during moderate to intense activities) just over an hour before my workout, and healthy meals and snacks throughout the day leading up to it. This enabled me to push myself hard, keep up with the instructor, and feel great throughout my workout.

    A simple explanation for this – blood sugar levels. When we eat foods, they cause a rise in our blood sugar levels. Our food is digested and some of it (depending on what we eat) is broken down into glucose, or sugar, which gets fed into our cells and used for energy. This is what kept me going during my cycle class. This is also what keeps anyone going during everyday activities. However, when we feel hungry, tired, or just low in energy – this is when our blood sugar levels are below normal. We have no fuel in our bodies for our everyday activities. But our bodies are still functioning – how? By breaking down internal stores of fat and muscle. This in turn causes a decrease in strength and endurance during activities, and the feeling of fatigue and poor concentration at work.

    How can we avoid low energy levels and their side effects? By eating small frequent meals throughout the day. Aim to not go longer than 3 hours without eating. This will ensure energy levels are consistent throughout the day – avoiding the spikes in blood sugar or extreme lows in blood sugar, but staying somewhere in the middle, within our normal range (somewhere between about 4 – 8 mmol/L). Here’s a sketch to help you visualize:

    The effect of smaller, more frequent meals on blood sugar levels.
    What we’re eating also has a part to play. A nutritious, well-balanced diet is key. A diet rich in vegetables and fruit, whole grains, protein, and low-fat dairy products or alternatives (to provide us with calcium and vitamin D).

    Everyone is different. Depending on your schedule, your daily activities, or your sport and the intensity and duration of your training sessions – you will need to fuel your body accordingly. What and when you eat are two key things to take into consideration. If you’re an athlete, or even just engage in sport or exercise once in a while – timing, specific nutrient make-up, and size of meals and snacks depends on when you will be engaging in exercise. You want to eat something that will be digested in enough time to fuel you for your activity, but no too far in advance that you have no energy left during your activity. Sometimes it is necessary to top off your energy levels with a high carb snack during your activity, and always necessary to re-fuel with carbs and a little bit of protein after your activity.

    No matter what, DO focus on eating healthy foods throughout the day at regular intervals. Nutrition is a powerful tool that can greatly affect how you feel throughout the day, and throughout your workouts or sport!

  • Amazing Epsom Salt

    Epsom salt is vastly underrated. Most of us associate it with a relaxing bath, but did you know that epsom salts have all sorts of amazing health benefits—as well as beauty, household and gardening-related uses?

    Epsom salt has been used for hundreds of years as a natural remedy for a number of ailments. Unlike other ‘salts’, Epsom salt has beneficial properties that can soothe the body, mind and soul.

    What is Epsom Salt?

    Epsom salt, named for a bitter saline spring at Epsom in Surrey, England, is not actually salt but a naturally occurring pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate. Magnesium plays a number of roles in the body including regulating the activity of over 325 enzymes, reducing inflammation, helping muscle and nerve function and helping to prevent artery hardening. Sulfates help improve the absorption of nutrients, flush toxins and help ease migraine headaches.

    Why Epsom Salt Baths?

    Epsom salt baths are the easiest way to enjoy the health benefits of magnesium and sulfate, as both minerals are readily absorbed through the skin. After a deep massage treatment, we often give our clients a packet of Epsom salts because it draws the lactic acid out of the body, reducing achiness. For the same reason, these baths are great after a big workout or long run.

    The key is to use water that’s as hot as you can bear (unless you’re pregnant) and at least one cup of Epsom salt. Another important tip: drink two glasses of water while you’re in the tub to assist in the flushing process.

    Benefits of Epsom Salts

    There are many reasons why Soma Studio recommends Epsom salt baths to our clients. Some of the countless health benefits include:

    • Relaxing the nervous system
    • Drawing toxins from the body
    • Soothing back pain & aching bodies
    • Easing muscle strain
    • Reducing swelling & inflammation
    • Alleviating skin problems
    • Treating colds and congestion
    • Relieving symptoms of athlete’s foot

    It’s also a natural emollient, exfoliator and hair volumizer. Around the house and garden, Epsom salt can be used to soften towels, clean bathroom tiles, deter slugs, fertilize plants and keep your lawn green.

    Where to Find Epsom Salts in Vancouver

    Any pharmacy such as Shopper’s Drug Mart or London Drugs should carry plain Epsom salt. If you become a convert, you can find it in bulk at Costco and select stores.

    To up the relaxation ante, try naturally scented bath salts such as lavender, mandarin, sandalwood or ylang-ylang. These can be found at bath and body care stores such as Escents Aromatherapy – or it’s easy to make your own.

  • 5 Easy Ways to Counteract a Sedentary Lifestyle

    When the weather takes a turn for the worse, our exercise and eating habits tend to change and we adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. We stop riding our bikes, going for long runs along the beach and eating lighter meals with fresh local produce. And even without the change in seasons, many of us are already sedentary all day, in jobs that require long periods of sitting and working from a computer.

    Sedentary Lifestyle: working at a computerThe irony of this situation is that after long periods of inactivity, we feel tired and lethargic—even though we haven’t expended any physical energy. This is when we often end our day sitting even more, either ‘relaxing’ in front of the TV or by reading a book. Or we’ll try eating more for energy, when our bodies actually need fewer calories if they are inactive for most of the day.

    There are multiple studies showing that a sedentary lifestyle may lead to premature death, a risk that’s higher for those that sit still for more than four hours a day (that’s it…only four hours!). Being inactive can be a risk factor for multiple health issues including depression, anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, deep vein thrombosis and many more.

    To counteract a more sedentary lifestyle, try the following tips:

    1. Go outside – Make a point to bundle up and go for a short walk, even if it’s just around the block, to the mailbox, the park or to the store. Get yourself a good waterproof jacket, rain boots and/or umbrella (we live in a temperate rainforest after all) and walk to your errands.
    2. The 20-minute rule – Set your timer every 20 minutes to take a break. Take a stretch, get a glass of water and walk over to your co-worker instead of sending an email. Place your trash can further away from your desk so you have to walk to it. This rule applies while you’re watching TV too…get up during commercial breaks and stretch.
    3. Take a stand – Instead of sitting down for lunch in front of your computer or a book, try standing and reading instead. Stand up whenever possible—while on the phone, waiting, riding the bus or even in a meeting (this is becoming more popular in progressive companies).
    4. Hoof it – Find creative ways to incorporate more activity into your workday. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator—even if you walk up three flights and use the elevator for the remainder. Or get off at the bus stop before your regular stop and walk the extra block.
    5. Get a leg up – After a long day, put your legs up the wall to restfully restore your energy. In yoga this is called Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall-Pose). This is one of our favourite things to do after a long, stressful day and it’s better than a nap because it revives you for the evening. A passive stretch, it allows the blood to drain from the legs and calms the nervous system. When trying it, your buttocks should be fairly close to the wall, and your legs should be straight up the wall, creating a gentle stretch in the hamstrings. Close your eyes, exhale and stay in the pose from 5-20 minutes.

    What do you do to counteract a sedentary lifestyle? Share your tips with us.

  • Well hello, sunny September!

    This month, I decided to save a little money by foregoing the bus pass, and walking (or running) to work. The 99 B-Line commute had been getting me down, and since I just started work at the new East side studio, this seemed like a great way to get to know the neighbourhood. I certainly picked the right month! September mornings have been fabulous-sunny and crisp, and the afternoon trip home has allowed me to work on my fall tan. It’s 5 kilometers each way, which leaves me feeling invigorated and clear- headed, though I have to leave a little earlier in the morning than I used to. It’s worth it! And I’m not the only one, Lori has been cycling, and Diane walks to work as well.

    The Hastings Sunrise area is really lovely: quiet, tree-lined streets, ethnically diverse, and filled with local parks. Every Saturday morning I pass a Tai Chi class at Beaconsfield park, and on the weekdays, two solemn student crossing guards escort me across Grandview. The Italian grocer on our block has fabulous espresso, and has been family-owned since 1964. Yesterday I noticed a Latino bakery only a block away; you can bet I’ll pay them a visit soon. Yum!

    So, all things considered, the decision to take a break from the bus has been win-win: healthy body, peaceful mind, and a great way to see the neighbourhood. Have you considered making a change to your morning commute? You may be happy you did!