Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy New Year!

2014 has been quite the year.  I hope looking back you can take all your experiences and move forward with intention, gratitude and hope.  Thank you for being part of my year.  As a virtual community I choose to use social media to bring more positive than negative, more optimism, motivation and inspiration. This is what I hope I have brought to you this year.  In 2015, amongst all that you wish for, I hope you take steps to take care of your body through the simple act of movement. Make exercise a part of your life - the side effects of daily movement and that of challenging your limits will reward you with more than just a strong, healthy body. Challenging yourself through exercise can truly change your life and the lives of those around you. You never know who you are inspiring.  Enjoy this holiday season, Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness, Gena.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

5 Essentials for Productivity

For any small business owner and entrepreneur it often feels like there are just not enough hours in the day. Maximizing results in limited time can be quite the feat so here are five solutions to keep productivity on a roll.

Practice Mindfulness
If you're building your business then you may be like me. I'm constantly on. My mind is spinning with ideas, tasks and projects and this often leads to stress.  According to Forbes' “A Guide to Mindfulness At Work” it's toxic emotions like these that disrupt our work environment.  When you're mindful though you're basically allowing yourself to experience “moment to moment awareness” without having to take action.  There is no judgement or need for solution.  

“When you are mindful…You become keenly aware of yourself and your surroundings, but you simply observe these things as they are. You are aware of your own thoughts and feelings, but you do not react to them in the way that you would if you were on “autopilot”…By not labeling or judging the events and circumstances taking place around you, you are freed from your normal tendency to react to them.

This type of awareness puts a stop to “destructive patterns, helping you recognize them before they run rampant. It’s a way of reprogramming your mind to think in healthier, less stressful, ways.”

Set Structure and Deadlines
I ran into an old friend recently and we parted ways with the intention to meet again. And we did. But we did because we set a date and time. You can't be productive when by assuming things will get done.  Self imposed deadlines encourage us to manage our time and energy more effectively. Setting realistic deadlines also helps us to stay accountable and disciplined while building some structure in our work day. Meeting a deadline and seeing your work coming to fruition will definitely leave you with a feeling of accomplishment.

Disconnect for Success
Are you constantly looking at your phone? Flipping screens? Checking your Facebook? It's time to disconnect.  Being constantly connected often creates a false sense of urgency with things that pop up. It's impossible to be productive when you're looking for diversions and spreading your attention to things that don't matter.

Get Organized
Reaching that long term goal is achieved with short term tasks. To find success our day-to-day actions must be aligned with the bigger picture. Create a list of tasks, a chart of action and make appropriate use of your calendar. When and idea or task pops into your head get it down on paper so that you're not having to constantly remind yourself not to forget it. In addition to that, assign times in the day for certain tasks, like email. Amir Salihefendic, the founder of Doist, a company that specializes in productivity software suggests the following:

“I think email is really a productivity killer. I get hundreds of emails per day, and I manage this in following way:
  • I only check and process email three times a day (morning, noon, and afternoon).
  • I answer an email if it will take less than one minute.
  • I archive if an email isn't important.
In other words, "If you're going to open an email, either do something with it, like respond to it, or delete it, or file it away." Don't even open an email unless you can process it right then. That's part of the two-minute rule.

Space Awareness
Our surroundings can have a profound effect on our mood and productivity. Working in a space that is cluttered, dark or confined can cause us to feel lethargic, distracted and restless. As a mobile trainer I spend much of my time in my vehicle but each home is a work place. Setting aside a space with appropriate lighting and room temperature can have an immediate positive effect. This is also the case for any office setting or home office. Artificial lighting can be challenging in a workplace and unfortunately we cant always control that. If you're in an environment with artificial lighting taking breaks outdoors can give you the boots you need. In addition to lighting and room temperature our furniture and the colours in our space can also effect or mood and productivity. “Ergonomics are a real issue in today’s typing-heavy work environment. But ergonomics are not just a safety issue. Studies have found when a worker is comfortable and safe, that worker is more productive. When employees sit up straight and type, they thinmore clearly and have a higher work output than an employee who sits slumped over his or her keyboard.

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness, Gena.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Clean and Jerk. No Swiffer Necessary...

One of my goals during this off season, or season of improvements as I like to call it, was to try Olympic weightlifting.  In traditional Olympic style weightlifting the athlete's goal is to lift a maximum weight in a single lift.  That's not my goal.  Although I am aware of the two main lifts- the snatch and the clean & jerk, I felt I needed some guidance in regards to my form and the phases of the lifts.   As a trainer and exercise enthusiast I can say with certainty that in order to get better at something you should train with someone who is better at it than you are. When you've been doing something a certain way it's difficult to unlearn it  - I see this quite often when working with new clients.  So with that in mind I met with my friend and trainer Marios Kyprianou.  As a competitive powerlifter, Marios has extensive experience with these lifts and most importantly - he's good at them.  You can check out our training session as we run through the different phases of the Clean and Jerk.  It was a lot of fun and something different from my usual training. As with any exercise, ensure you have established the basic moves and proper form before adding or increasing your weight.

High Hang Clean


Notice the position of my elbows.  The elbows should be higher than the shoulders and tucked in,

From the High Hang Clean we move into the "catch"


Remember to bend the knees, keep the hips back (not under the shoulders) and have the elbows facing forward.  

Now we begin from below the knees, in a conventional deadlift position.  This is the Low Hang position.

And now the Jerk from the low hang position

Remember come up tall, elbows face forward, bend the knees again.  Catch the bar in a deep lunge position.


Bringing it all together - the full Clean and Jerk

Remember to set the feet!

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness, Gena.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Benefits of Massage Therapy

Who doesn't love a good back rub.  Aside from the relaxing effects of massage, "...research establishes that regular massage therapy improves range of motion, reduces recovery time, increases muscle tone, and increases flexibility.  Since massage acts as an "auxiliary heart" by increasing circulation, it thus facilitates the elimination of toxins and other metabolic wastes generated as a byproduct of resistance training. Additionally, massage therapy reduces the time that it takes the body to heal an injury."

One study showed that  muscles rebounded better if massaged after exercising to exhaustion...just 10 minutes of massage "upped mitochondria production, and reduced proteins associated with inflammation in muscles that had been exercised to exhaustion..."

I love to toss heavy weight around and as a fitness enthusiast and builder of my body this is music to my ears. After a long and intense competition season I met with  Michelle Wilson, RMT.

 The pictures below show some winging in my scapula and left erector hypertonicty.  


We will be working on these areas in addition to my tight forearms, glutes/hamstrings and pecs.  
When meeting with a massage therapist consider the following:

1. During a deep tissue massage ensure you're not holding your breath and tensing your muscles.  Doing so may have adverse effects by increasing your chances of further injury or encountering a negative rebound effect on the muscles. Remember to breathe and request less pressure if necessary.

2.  In addition to trust and personable interactions, communication between client and therapist is key.  This is your time.   Feel comfortable enough to say what you would like to focus on during your treatment. This will also help your therapist accommodate your needs and manage the time they have with you. 

3.  During deep tissue massage, lactic acid and other toxins are released into the blood stream.  Similar to DOMS, there is a chance of muscle soreness for up to 48 hours post treatment.  In order to assist in the elimination of these toxins make sure to drink plenty of water before and after your treatment.  Light exercise, Epsom salt bath or heat will also assist in the removal of these toxins.  Not everyone will experience this discomfort and it isn't necessarily a negative side effect - it is completely dependent on the individual and their own system.  Either way - it's important to stay hydrated to aid in optimal health!

Check in with us as we document my progress and discuss different topics related to your health and wellness in the workplace, gym and life in general!  We would love to hear from you too, feel free to leave a comment or suggestions.   

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness, Gena & Michelle.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Glute Bridge

Good morning and happy hump 'n pump day! I'm determined to defy gravity by building and lifting my glutes this season. I've seen a few different variations of the glute bridge so I gave it a shot. Getting into position and foot placement can be a little challenging but hey I'm up for that! Practice makes perfect. Check it out: http://instagram.com/p/rXAck1pqJq/?modal=true

Get a Grip!

When working on building your body your grip impacts your workout.
Here are some pull-up/pull-down grip variations.  Take your time with each exercise and practice full range of motion in a controlled manner.

Pull-up with Wide Overhand Grip (Prone)
The pull-up develops the major muscles in the back. The wide overhand grip tends to be the most challenging variation.  Contrary to the underhand grip, the biceps do not assist in the movement to the same extent. This, in addition to the proximity of the hands, makes the exercise more challenging.  Both these factors put more emphasis on the lats.  Keeping the elbows along the side of the body develops width in the back.

Pull-up/Chin-up with Narrow Underhand Grip (Supine)
A pull-up or chin-up with a narrow underhand grip tends to be easier because the biceps are heavily involved in the movement.  Having the hands more aligned with the shoulders and in closer proximity to each other also adds more ease.  

Close grip (Neutral) Lat Pull-down
Quite often the neutral close grip is easiest for many. In addition to the back and biceps, the forearms (brachioradialis) really come into play.

Achieving a full pull-up is something to celebrate. You can begin by simply hanging from a bar. This will help in developing control and grip strength. Next use a chair for assistance and practice lowering your body in a slow, controlled manner.  Avoid shrugging the shoulders or rounding them forward. Keep your chest open. Avoid swinging or jerking the body and never compromise your form.

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness, Gena.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

If You're Looking for a Fat Loss Miracle Don't Read This

Fat loss. It can be confusing at times. With so many miracles, secrets, formulas and weapons doesn't it make you wonder why it still seems to be one of the world's mysteries?  Why is fat loss so hard? If you're looking for a miracle I don't have one.  What I do have are four choices that have helped me. The science of fat loss is very interesting but it's the basic lifestyle choices and habits that bring change.  At the end of the day no matter how much you know, if you don't take action the science won't help you.

1. Sleep. Yeah it's boring and takes up a chunk of your time but it's necessary to sustain life and fat loss.  I can tell you first hand when I'm sleep deprived all I want to eat are highly processed, sugary comfort foods.  The trouble is that once you start to eat these foods you crave more.  Simply put - you crave what you eat. Sugar is fast energy but when you're sleep deprived it's like bungee jumping without a harness. Your fat loss goals crash.

"A sleepless night makes us more likely to reach for doughnuts or pizza than for whole grains and leafy green vegetables, suggests a new study from UC Berkeley that examines the brain regions that control food choices."

In addition to the number it does on your brain, sleep deprivation messes up your hormones and metabolism.

 "...when you're sleep deprived, you have too much ghrelin, too much go in you, which is telling you to eat, and not enough stop in you, which is telling you when you're full. So you end up overeating or eating more than you really need to ...Another thing we know about sleep deprivation is that your metabolism slows down. Well, if you have a slow metabolism, you're not burning fuel efficiently, so it's going into fat storage and fat deposits, and again, causing more weight gain.We also know with sleep deprivation, we have increased levels of cortisol. Well, that can be another problem which causes more appetite. Here's the most fascinating part about the research I think. All those other things aside, when you're sleep deprived, if I was to lay out a healthy snack for you, or a very non healthy, sugary snack for you, you'd gun for the sugary food. You would go for the less healthy food, so your food choice is even affected by sleep deprivation.  

2.  Plan your meals and organize your kitchen.  How many times have you come home starving with nothing to eat. It's probably why you're starving in the first place.  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Each week prepare some go-to food and snacks.  Chicken breast, boiled eggs, side dishes, salads, cut up fruits, veggies and nuts in zip loc bags (for portion control). It's not high end cuisine but it's simple, easy and there when you need it. And because life is unpredictable you will need it. This also includes the time necessary to shop for groceries, cook, cleanup, pack etc. If there are items in your cupboards that are just too tempting to eat in moderation get them out of site. The stuff I don't necessarily want to eat I tend to keep in the bottom cupboards, away from eye level.   It's difficult to be successful at anything if you are not organized.  

3. Know your triggers and break the patterns.  Every time I go to my parents' home I want cookies. Often it's the end of the day on my way home from work to pick up the kids.  Grandma's house always has cookies. How do I avoid a B line to the cookie jar? I have to remind myself before I even get there. I slow down.  I try not to go hungry. I'll ask for an apple.  Your mama wants to see you happy so she'll give you what you ask for. Don't ask for cookies.  Do you mindlessly go through the cupboards during TV commercials?  Do you head to the kitchen before bed?  Do you sit at the kitchen table on your computer? A lot of our set patterns and habits lead to mindless eating. Be engaged and aware to determine what mindless actions need to be broken.  When you see the pattern you can make the changes.

4. Work with a coach.  If you struggle to stay accountable to yourself hire a coach.  A coach will offer guidance, support and tough love when needed.  Anyone can tell you what you want to hear but a good coach will tell you what you need to hear.   Besides, it's not always fun to do things alone.  Working with others whether in person, on-line, one-on-one or in a group, makes the process so much more enjoyable. 

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness, Gena.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hello National 2015!

Some moments captured from my 2014 competition season.  It's been a great year and I'm happy with what I've accomplished this season.  I'm excited for the off season and really looking forward to working on the areas that need improvement.  Let's go Nationals 2015!


Abdominal Work on the Total Gym

Working on the abs this morning. Hey I love my Total Gym and if it's good enough for Chuck Norris it's good enough for me! Ha! I picked it up over a decade ago, as a single parent with little time to hit the gym. It's a great way to add diversity to my workouts! Check out my video on Instagram! http://instagram.com/p/qwboGFJqGn/

Natural Provincial Championships

With my final competition of the year behind me I can officially say - Hello Nationals 2015! What an incredible season of personal victories and growth. Looking back my 2013 off season was about transitioning from Figure to Physique with a goal to qualify for nationals. When prep began the days were short, cold and snowy with 3:45 am workouts. It feels like a lifetime ago! Of course with goals come highs, lows, fears and assurance but it's passion that never fails us. Passion respects the goal and the habits necessary to achieve them. You may feel tired and discouraged but follow through, even when it's not clear why you should. I hope you too have experienced progress and you've stuck with your goals. If not, you can decide right now to take action. If you want it you will do it. I truly believe that. It has to be self driven. Do what you love in whatever capacity you can. It doesn't have to be on the grandest scale. Honour it. I am excited for this off season - my season of improvements. My mind is open, my dreams are big, my willingness to work is solid and my passion is fuel. Cheers to where you are and where you're headed. Congratulations my fellow OPA athletes and to all those off to Nationals 2014 - have a blast! Thank you Mindi O'Brien IFBB Pro and Dennis Beitler, you rock my competition world and to my husband, kids, parents and friends - you are my sunshine!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Deadlift to Squat Thrust Exercise

Here's one of my favourite exercises -  The Deadlift Squat Thrust:

-start with a light weight (bar, dumbbell or kettlebell)
-shoulders back
-chest up and open
-arms straight, shoulder width apart
-glutes move back, mentally focus on glutes and hamstrings
-work through the heels
-keep bar close to the body, slide down along quads
-watch that knees don't cave inward
-look ahead while lifting and lowering

Adding the squat thrust to the deadlift increases the intensity and cardiovascular benefits. There is additional upper body work through the arms, chest and midsection.  The deadlift also works the upper body and lower body with focus on the posterior chain.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Toronto Pro Super Show

And that's a wrap! Regardless of the sleep deprivation today was a fantastic day! Placing 2nd in Physique, Masters I feel great about where I've come and where I'm going. I love the work involved  in transitioning from figure to physique and I cannot wait to take this and continue to build. Yes, I've said it before - I love the art of body building.  God willing, I'll be flexing and pumping iron til I'm 102 :)

There's no Wagon in Life

Life is a continuum.  When it comes to your health and fitness, there is no wagon to fall off of.

One Size Doesn't Fit All

One size doesn't fit all when it comes to your health and fitness.  The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the person you were yesterday.  I share my thoughts here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Luchka OBrien Mississauga Classic

This weekend has been highlighted by many memorable moments. One thing I know for certain is that when you do something from the heart you will work hard and do your best, no matter the outcome. Often there is no clear end or destination but rather a process of growth, discovery and understanding. As competitive athletes our goals may be different but it's the process that binds us. Congratulations to every The Ontario Physique Association (OPA) Ontario Physique athlete who stood on stage yesterday. Perhaps this was the time you tried something new, overcame a fear, reached new goals or met new challenges. This is the process: take this experience and continue to move forward in a way that is fulfilling and meaningful to you. You worked hard, be proud.
The GNC Live Well LUCHKAOBRIEN CLASSIC was a class act and one of the OPA's biggest shows of the season! Thank you Mindi O'Brien IFBB Pro and Nina Luchka Ifbb Pro for putting on such a great event. A huge thank you to a tireless panel of judges who ran a 14hr day (and that was just the show) with 300 athletes!
I walked into this competition feeling immense gratitude for the opportunities in my life and I walked away overwhelmed and humbled. I owe much thanks to my brother and sister in law who encouraged me to compete for the first time in 2013. That one show set me on a path to 4 more. They also directed me to my coaches Mindi OBrien and Dennis Beitler who gave me guidance and support to grow as an athlete. I'm part of a team of individuals who care, support and encourage each other. I was thrilled with my placing at this competition with a 1st Place Womens Physique Short, 1st Place Womens Physique Masters and an Overall Win.  I'm so excited to be moving on to the Provincials at the end of this month!


Stephanie Worlsfold Classic OPA Natural Qualifier

With Stephanie Worsfold

What a fantastic weekend! Stephanie Worsfold Classic OPA Natural Qualifier had a great turnout  with close to 200 competitors! A great success made possible by so many individuals who pull together and work tirelessly to make these events happen. 


Coach Mindi OBrien

Of course anyone who competes or is striving for new goals in their life knows that a support system is invaluable. These events specifically have many sponsors and a great deal of behind the scenes work. Thank you to The Ontario Physique Association (OPA) for continuing to offer a platform where all are welcome. Everyone out there is someone's daughter or son, husband, wife – mom or dad, even grandparent! We all have different reasons for competing but in doing so you have motivated and inspired someone else. Working hard and making it to the stage is something to be proud of. I was fortunate enough for the opportunity to take part in this event yesterday and I'm overwhelmed with gratitude. With the guidance and encouragement of my coaches Mindi O'Brien IFBB Pro Mindi O'Brien and Dennis Beitler my experience in Womens Physique surpassed what I could have imagined. I placed in both my categories 1st Place in Womens Physique Short, 1st Place in Womens Physique Masters followed by an Overall Win.  It was a very exciting day!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Champions are Made

"Champions are made, not born." I have this quote running through my mind this morning after the finale of the Olympic winter games.  "Champions are made..."

At the end of the day what we see on the screen is a moment in an athlete's life. In that moment all their hard work is on display. What we don't see is everything leading up to that moment. The discipline, devotion and laser like focus. The obstacles, challenges and sacrifice. Not just that of the athlete but of the families too. There is something so powerful about a win but also a loss. It's amazing and emotional, as is life.

A few years back while training for another marathon I had to take some time off due to an injury. I was told to "suck it up", it wasn't a big deal - it wasn't the Olympics. At that moment it struck me that yes of course it wasn't the Olympics but this marathon was MY Olympics. Sounds corny I know but it's true. That's how I saw it. So keeping the Olympic spirit alive think about something you've always wanted to do – a goal you'd like to attain.  It doesn't have to be fitness or health related but it should be something that challenges you, even scares you. Make it your Olympics and approach it like a champion.  Set a plan, do the work and make it happen!

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness,

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Healthy Steps In The Right Direction

It's always so exciting to work with people who are motivated to make positive changes in their life!

Tassie and I have been training together to build a strong fitness foundation.  Our diverse one to one training sessions include various types of exercises with the TRX,  Buddy System, dumbbells, resistance bands, kettlebells and high intensity interval training - to name just a few! Keeping the workouts challenging and fun has helped us make some great  progress in all areas of fitness.  I'm especially happy to see strength gains in those modified pushups!  It's great to revisit an older workout after a few weeks to really recognize the improvements.  

The benefits of exercise keep this mom of two feeling strong and energized to tackle the demands of her busy life. In addition to the improvements in her fitness level Tassie decided to take it one step further and shed some weight.  Every day is different for this mom on the go so our whole approach to weight loss had to be practical. 

We set out a structured plan and after following through we've made some great progress.  Our plan consisted of 2-3 training session per week in addition to food changes. These changes were simple but effective; they included flexible meal guidelines, portion control, meal preparation and the practice of mindful eating.  Tassie shed 5 pounds in her first two weeks!  This is healthy progress for long term sustainable weight loss.  No crash diets!  Our check-ins and weekly goal setting has really helped keep things on track.

Congratulations Tassie, keep up the great work!