Tone Up, Toronto!

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Day 232: Side Leg Raises

Lie down on your right side with your bottom leg bent and your top leg straight. Either hold your head up with your hand or lie your head comfortably down. Point the toe of your top leg and raise it straight up as slowly as you can. Hold your leg at the top of this raise for three seconds and then lower that leg as slowly as you can. Repeat this ten times on each side. Do this as many times today as you feel comfortable doing.



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Dakota Johnson: Celebrity Diet and Exercise Routine

I recently watched the movie How To Be Single and thought “Wow, who is that girl?” I’ve never read the Fifty Shades of Grey books, and had no desire to watch the movies, so I’ve remained oblivious to Dakota Johnson up until now. It was not until I found out that her mother was Melanie Griffith that I began to see the similarities. One thing that struck me about Dakota herself was her lean body with just the hint of muscle. I was curious to know whether she was one of those lucky girls who is just naturally skinny, or if she did some cardio to achieve those results.


The first thing I learned about Dakota Johnson is that she looks cold-pressed raw juices. She developed the habit while working in Vancouver, Canada and has kept sipping on them throughout the day even after she returned to Los Angeles. She never does crazy cleanses. It is solely a means of adding more nutrients to her diet. Her favourite drink has apple, lemon, and ginger in it.

Exercise Routine

Dakota admits that she never used to have an exercise routine before the Fifty Shades of Grey movies but that she wanted to look good on screen and became somewhat addicted:  “It kind of feels f**king awesome.” Dakota’s favourite form of exercise is running and she worked out with a personal trainer before the Fifty Shades movies were shot. She also sometimes does Pilates to tone her body and ease stress. She does everything from mat work to the reformer machines. Her favourite place do do Pilates is at Windsor Pilates.

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2017: The Year You Arrive At Your Best Weight

Let’s face it, 2016 wasn’t the best year for most people. Even though good things happened (friends got married or had their first child) most people would say that, overall, 2016 took more from us than it gave us. In times of stress, many people are prone to eat, so it is likely that one of the things that 2016 gave you was a heftier waistline. If that is the case, then put 2016 in the past and focus on 2017. This can be the year where you arrive at your best weight. Your best weight does not necessarily mean rocking super skinny jeans. Your best weight is the weight where you feel your healthiest without having to kill yourself on the treadmill to achieve it. It is probably not too too far off the weight you are now, unless your BMI is in the obese or super obese range.

Start by looking at a BMI chart and thinking about what your ideal weight would be. Where does that weight fall on the chart? Is your ideal weight realistic or is it quite low in terms of the average BMI for your height? Now think back to the last time you felt athletic. What did the scale say that morning? Is that an achievable weight for you to get back to and maintain?

This distinction between your ideal weight (the weight you would love to be if it were easy) and your best weight (the healthiest weight for your body) is a hard one to wrap your head around. Most of us would love to be model skinny effortlessly, but most models themselves are a) naturally on the skinny side and b) have to work out and eat specific diets to maintain that shape. That weight is achievable for them (whether it is healthy or not) but it may not be achievable for you and chances are that it would not be healthy for you to get down to that weight.

2017 could be your year to embrace your body as it is and get it to the point where it is at its healthiest. If you are completely sedentary right now, then try taking one 20 minute walk a day at a moderate pace. If you do some exercise, then try bumping it up and add some strength training. If you have been strength training with 5 pound weights, then bump it up to 7 pound weights and see how that feels. Can you still do the same exercises with proper form?

Do whatever you need to do to get more athletic this year and your body will respond. It may not instantly shrink down to supermodel proportions, but if you have stopped making that a goal and have made getting healthy your number one priority, then you will be overjoyed to see new muscles develop. You may not get six-pack abs, but every plank you do will help strengthen your back and core making you a stronger person inside and out.

Let 2017 be a year of improvement and self love and I practically guarantee that you’ll feel better in January 2018.

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Day 231: Slow Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers don’t have to be done quickly to be effective. Watch this video from Fitness Magazine which will show you how to do Slow Mountain Climbers.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand in plank position.
  2. Bring your right knee forward (option: to tap your right toes on the ground) before extending the leg back out.
  3. Repeat with left leg. This is one rep.
  4. Do 20 reps to start (or more if this is easy for you).

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Day 230: Stability Ball Pike

This exercise tones your shoulders, lower back, and abs.

Required: A well-inflated stability ball.

How To Do It:

  1. Lie facedown on the ball with your thighs atop its centre. Put your palms on the floor so that they are aligned under your shoulders. Extend your arms fully.
  2. Slowly roll the ball forward so it moves under your feet as you lift your hips. Keep your legs straight as you form an inverted V with your body. If this is too difficult then bend your knees in towards your chest and roll the ball towards you.
  3. Hold for 1 count and then slowly roll back to the starting position.
  4. Do 15 reps.

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Day 229: Downward Dog Tuck

This is an easier exercise after yesterday’s challenging core twists. This exercise strengthens your shoulders, back, abs , butt, thighs, and calves.

How To Do It:
1. Start in downward dog (get on all fours on the mat, tuck your toes under and press your hips up to form an inverted V).

2. Shift your hips back slightly and bend your knees towards your chest as you round your back into a tuck. Pull your belly button towards your spine to engage your abs.

3. Return to downward dog to complete 1 rep.

4. Do 2 sets of 10 reps.

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Day 228: Core Twists

This exercise targets your shoulders, back, abs, obliques, and inner thighs.

Stability Ball - no attribution required.jpg

Required: An well-inflated stability ball.

How To Do It:

  1. Lie facedown on the stability ball with your shins on top of the centre of the ball. (Hint: the easiest way to get in position is to lie down with your tummy on the ball and roll forward so that the ball is under your shins.) Place your palms on the food so that they align under your shoulders. Your arms should be extended. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Engage your abs and spread you feet about 1 foot apart on top of the ball.
  3. Keep engaging your abs throughout the exercise. Keep your shoulders squared and slowly roll the ball slightly to the left and to the right so that you twist your core slightly, but be careful not to twist too much. 1 twist to the left and 1 twist to the right is 1 rep.
  4. Try to do 15 reps.

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Day 227: Weighted Swings

This exercise targets your shoulders, back, butt, and legs.

Weights - no attribution neededHow To Do It:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly outward, holding a single 8- to 10-pound dumbbell in your left hand in front of your hips. Your palm should be facing in towards your body.
  2. Squat, keeping your knees behind your toes (if you cannot see your toes when you look down then you are too far forward), and swing the dumbbell back between your legs.
  3. Quickly stand up, swinging your left arm up in front of you at shoulder level. Immediately return to a squat position.
  4. Do 15 reps or continue for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

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Day 226: Alternate V-Sit Rolls

This exercise targets your abs, obliques, and lower back. This exercise is a little tricky, especially at first, so be patient with yourself. Concentrate on keeping your abdominal muscles strong throughout the exercise, and stop if anything (especially your back) hurts.

How To Do It:

  1. Sit on your mat with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor, and your arms by your sides.
  2. Keep your knees bent at you lift your feet off the mat until your skins are nearly parallel to to floor and lean your torso back 45 degrees into a V-Sit. Extend your arms forward.
  3. Here is where it gets tricky: slowly roll down your spine onto you left side, extending your legs and reaching your arms overhead with your palms facing one another.
  4. Slowly reverse the motion to return into a V-Sit. Repeat on the right hand side to complete 1 rep.
  5. Do 2 sets of 10 reps.

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Health Benefits (and Risks) of Ginger

Ginger Zak Greant

[Photo: Ginger grown in Vancouver, Photo Credit: Zak Greant]

Ginger has been used as a traditional remedy in my cultures for thousands of years.

Health Benefits of Ginger

Ginger is wonderful for nausea or an upset stomach. It also aids in digestion. If you suffer from painful period cramps, ginger should be your go-to for lessening them. Ginger can also help reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, muscle and join pain, and even headaches.

More research needs to be done on the following claims, but lab and animal studies have shown that ginger can help reduce swelling, lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar, and prevent blood clotting, but again, more research needs to be done to prove that ginger can have these effects and I cannot stress enough that you should be speaking to your doctor about these health risks rather than trying to cure them exclusively with natural medicine (though your doctor may decide they can play a role in restoring you to health).

Ginger was very helpful for me when I was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It seemed to calm down the cramping and nausea. I would blend a small amount of ginger (skin and all – after washing it thoroughly of course) with half a lemon’s worth of juice and drink it. If that is a little too extreme for you then you can add a little maple syrup or honey to make it more like a spicy lemonade. The unsweetened version is still my favourite drink when I have PMS cramps or an upset stomach. I truthfully have not noticed that it helps relieve any of my fibromyalgia pain, but I’d love to hear feedback about whether it has helped anyone with their arthritis pain.

I’ve also heard of people diluting the juice from ginger root with water and spraying it on their bodies as insect repellent, which I have yet to try. I’d be very interested if this had any effect against the mosquitoes up in cottage country.

Health Risks and Side Effects of Ginger

Pregnant women should be very careful with ginger. There is some evidence that it can raise the risk of miscarriage, especially in high doses.

There are also side effects for non-pregnant women – even in small doses. Ginger can cause heartburn, gas, mouth irritations, and an upset stomach. If you are ingesting a high dose of ginger (more than 5 grams a day) then it increases the chances of side effects.

If you have a bleeding disorder, ginger might raise your risk of excess bleeding so be very careful and talk to a doctor before ingesting ginger. You should also be cautious if you have diabetes or heart problems.
Do not take a ginger supplement if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and it is best not to give it to a child because it is still not known whether it is safe for small children.

Also note that applying ginger to the skin can cause a rash. Some people swear by applying a ginger compress to skin for pain, so if you are going to try this start with a small area and watch it closely to see if a rash develops).

As always, if you are on medication, you should speak to your doctor about any possible interactions with a high dose of ginger or a ginger supplement.