The Case of Athleisure: Trading the Runway for Treadmills

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If you’re like me, you think the most fun part of working out is selecting your gym ensemble. Athletic and leisure clothing (often abbreviated as athleisure) is at the height of its popularity within the fashion world. It’s hard to ignore as a consumer. I can walk into any retail store and always find myself gravitating towards the brightly coloured lycra and the counters full of always-flattering yoga pants. Thanks to athletic giants like lululemon, athleisure has certainly chiseled its place within the wardrobes of many women – even if they don’t frequent barre classes or yoga studios.

Why are so many companies trying to make a name using fitness clothing? Because athleisure has grown to adapt to women’s lifestyles. Instead of old t-shirts and sweats reserved for grueling gym sessions, more and more designers strive to invent multidimensional pieces that can take you from your spin class to a dinner date without a wardrobe crisis. Athleisure is practical. It supports you by wicking away the sweat beading on your back during deadlifts but also keeps you cool and comfortable in line at the supermarket. With all of the multi-use possibilities, it’s no secret why women (myself included) dish out hundreds of dollars on the latest lululemon trends.

Athleisure is a staple in the closets of many teens, stay-at-home moms, and fitness junkies, but it is also making its way into couture collections. Versace revealed its Spring 2016 collection with bold straps and daring cutouts undoubtedly influenced by strategic ventilation panels found in athleisure.

Versace (Top) and Fabletics (Bottom) comparison. Note the use of decorative cutouts in both photos.

Although you won’t (hopefully) see a Versace ensemble in your local squat rack, it’s clear that even major influencers in couture are taking notice of the athleisure movement. After all, fashion is all about expression and your gym outfit should both perform and act as an extension of you.

What’s next for athleisure? It’s impossible to predict whether or not lululemon models will strut alongside their couture colleagues in New York Fashion Week, but there is no doubt that it is here to stay. As long as women lead busy lifestyles, there will always be a place for stylish sport wear that can take you from bikram to business meeting faster than you can say Namaste.

 

 

So a Crossfitter, Bodybuilder, and Powerlifter Walk up to a Bar…

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Just like figure skating and hockey, sprinting and long distance running, sports of the iron variety differ greatly. Even though the equipment remains the same, differences in technique and goals set these three sports apart from the rest.

You’d think that since all three use weights as their tools that they’d all find something in common.

Wrong.

Discrimination against Crossfitters, Bodybuilders, and Powerlifters can be heard amongst any of these iron heavers. Bodybuilders are too vain. Powerlifters lift heavy just so they can stay fat. And Crossfitters… well, do they even lift?

Don’t knock it ’til you try it

I think all of this boils down to a classic example of neophobia: the fear of trying anything new. How will you be able to accurately evaluate something without trying it yourself?

I started out with Zumba. Next, I got into running. Finally, I started lifting weights. I was more interested in body sculpting – most of my workouts I got from Bodybuilding.com’s figure/bikini athletes. My weights weren’t extremely heavy and I did anywhere between 10-12 reps for everything. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, but I wanted to lift heavier.

Strength in fitness competitions like bikini and figure competitions is not required. That’s not to say that bikini competitors don’t have immense strength. Canadian athlete, Hailey Goss, can deadlift 300+lbs.

Clearly Hailey knows the feeling of satisfaction and overall badassery you feel when you lift something really heavy from the ground. This is exactly why I decided to take more of a powerlifting approach to my training.

However, I don’t consider myself a strict powerlifter. I’m more of a sweaty generalist. I like doing a lot of obstacle racing (think Tough Mudder and Rugged Maniac). For obstacles, you need a lot of coordination and functional strength to help you. Last summer, I tried Crossfit for 6 weeks.

I’ve never sweat so much in my entire life.

Each WOD exhausted every ounce of power within my body and even though workouts were only 45 minutes in length, each time I wanted to puke mid-sled push. I did discover something I really loved, though, and that was Olympic lifting. I don’t quite have the mobility for it yet, but I really want to make an effort to train with some oly lifts and learn to snatch, jerk, and clean with the best. If you want to get more of a sense of what Crossfit is like, Buzzfeed made a great video:

Timing and high reps give Crossfit its cardio-focused reputation and, if you have a great coach, the “bad-form stereotype” will quickly disappear from your mind.

Where is the love?

Whatever your preference, we all love iron and have the callouses to prove it. There needs to be a paradigm shift within the fitness community because, well, the gym would be a better place if we all supported each other – no matter how we’re lifting.

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Nutrition: What you need to know

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When you lose 40+lbs, you start getting questions: how’d you do it? What are your workouts like? Can you recommend a meal plan? The truth is, it’s taken me 3 years of experimenting with fitness and nutrition to find the perfect combination for me.

I’m not a nutritionist, so really the only things I can recommend are consistency and dedication. While your workouts are important, the real magic happens in the kitchen. Anyone can go and workout for 2 hours but it takes real commitment to keep nutrition at the forefront. Before you jump into the next fad diet, detox, or juice cleanse you scroll over on Instagram, here are a few things you need to consider about your food preferences and your meal strategy:

Feed your needs

I’ve shared that I grew up with food and that food was there for me emotionally whenever I needed it. In the moments when I was eating, everything was okay. It didn’t matter if I was sad, happy, angry – food was comfort.

I still reach for that unnecessary slice of pie when I feel stressed or even as a reward for myself. What’s different now is that I don’t overindulge (or I try not to). Ignoring my cravings just made me more agitated. Combine a shitty mood with an intense workout and you get SURPRISE! an even shittier mood. Have you ever tried to deadlift your 1RM on a stomach full of baby carrots? I don’t recommend it.

I use flexible dieting because it gives me enough freedom to have the odd donut and still see results. I can eat carbs before a heavy lifting sesh and get the most out of my workouts. Evaluate your goals (strength, marathons, fitness competitor etc.) alongside your individual preferences and then go from there.

Lifestyle

Hey, diet! Don’t tell me how to live my life!

A lot of nutrition gurus might call bullshit on this one, but I think your lifestyle is totally valid in this decision making process.

Do you travel a lot? Constantly on your feet all day with minimal breaks? Strapped for cash? All of these reasons factor into your food choices whether you like to admit it or not. You can be the meal prepping MASTER and still succumb to on-the-run food choices.

In my case, I work part-time (no food or drinks allowed on the sales floor) and don’t make a lot of money (no extra cash for ultra-organic food). Sometimes, my study snack involves protein oats and poptarts. They’re quick, in my fridge, and satisfying. That being said, I make sure that these things fit my macronutrients  for the day. If I’m travelling, there’s no guarantee that there will be a microwave and a minifridge where I’m going. My flexible diet allows me to eat out at restaurants with relative ease. If you’re not willing to give up girl’s night at your fav wine-o joint (I hate to tell you this, but wine has carbs) , maybe that no-carb diet isn’t so great for you.

That being said, there are options if you still want the occasional high-carb refeed. Here’s a great into to carb cycling from Bodybuilding.com.

Don’t be afraid to test drive

I think I’m one of the few people who “diet” and can say they genuinely enjoy their nutrition plan. I didn’t get to this point, though, without some trial and error. Tried paleo, hated it. Tried eating clean, binged on chocolate every 2 days. Your nutrition plan should complement you. Research some nutrition plans that interest you and fit your goals and experiment.

I have the utmost respect for people that eat paleo because it is damn hard. Whole 30 is a great program that allows you to try before you commit to paleo indefinitely. Hey, it’s only 30 days. So if after 30 days it’s not your thing, you didn’t waste 6 months of your time grumbling about missing butter.

Masterpieces aren’t made in a night

Nutrition is probably the most difficult part of any wellness goal. It’s important to know that there will be some growing pains on starting any diet or nutrition plan. You won’t be and aren’t perfect – no one is. The most important part is not eating right but waking up each day and making the conscious decision to keep at it and get back up if you’ve strayed from the path.

Orange you glad I didn’t say Denim?

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Okay okay okay… let’s talk about JEAN shopping. If I was Kanye, I would insist that jean shopping deserves the Worst-Shopping-Experience-Of-All-Time Award. Of all TIME. I think most of my fitness friends will agree: jeans are the devil in a mask of acid-washed denim. 

Let me also preface this by saying that even before my fitness journey I hated jean shopping. At the age of 9, I remember grumbling as my mother took me from store-to-store to stock up on jeans during the Back To School season. At the time, I just thought it was lame (but also way better than dress shopping). Looking back, though, I was 9 years old wearing size 9 women’s jeans. That’s completely insane. At this very moment of writing this blog post, I am a size 8.

I have to stress the “moment” part because jean sizes fluctuate. They fluctuate to align with styles, specific stores/brands, and even time (anyone remember when the size “double zero” didn’t exist?). They change almost as much as your body changes. I’m not as lean as I was 3 months ago. As a result, my muffin top is a lot more noticeable than it was in October. The reverse can also be true. You could be getting really lean, starting to get some quad separation (!!!) and your jeans, with an evil zipper-toothed grin, laugh and say, “Not today, quads. Not today.”

And with all of this sadistic pleasure your jeans partake in, every one of us still needs at least one pair. I mean, would Casual Friday even exist if it weren’t for jeans? Would I still be a great Canadian if I didn’t have a Canadian Tuxedo in my closet?

I’ll leave these philosophical questions to the experts and I’ll also leave the jean shopping to the very last possible second. If jeans are an absolute pleasure for you to shop for, call me insanely jealous – because once I enter the realm of low-rise vs. super low-rise and bootcut vs. these-make-me-look-anything-BUT skinny jeans I lose every ounce of joy shopping once brought me.

Metamorphosis of a Fat Kid

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Growing up, I was bullied a lot for being a big bonedheftyheavy set, a little husky or any other euphemism for “fat” you can think of. At the age of 9 I found myself hoping, wishing, praying I was just a swan gosling living in a duckling’s world and that puberty would solve everything. I would hatch from that cocoon a new woman with looks, personality, and confidence. 10 years later at 19 years old I still remained that awkward caterpillar.

Weight shouldn’t dictate who you are. I say “shouldn’t” because in my case, growing up overweight influenced my identity quite a bit. Even now I gravitate towards the larger sizes and styles – even though I know they’re too bulky for me. I cover my stomach while at the beach or conceal my body as much as possible in public changing areas – even though I’ve worked hard for my flatter tummy and diminished rolls. In the back of my mind elementary school bullies still linger and their voices still carry. Former fat kid syndrome is something I work through daily and although the confidence issues have improved, sometimes I gaze in that mirror and see my 10 year-old self’s plump, sad face staring back at me.

If you were a former fat kid, I encourage you to reflect on that experience. As much as it’s easier to ignore it, it’s much more important to not forget where you came from. Whether you’re a fitness veteran or just starting out, I bet that your fat kid self is thanking you for taking a step towards self-care and wellness.You might not feel like a butterfly yet, but then again, metamorphosis doesn’t happen overnight. Consistency, work, and a lil’ TLC will have you fluttering in no time.

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Left: January 2012. Right: February 2016

 

 

Resolution to be kind

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Whether you’re an gym veteran or a timid newbie, the iron jungle can be a terrifying place. It’s no secret that many folks resolve to get healthier in the New Year. January becomes a month of self work and improvement and many fitness companies take advantage of the new-found motivation within prospective members. If you watched the ball drop in Times Square last night, you couldn’t help but notice the huge marketing attempt by Planet Fitness littering television screens and New York streets with purple streamers, confetti, and celebratory hats.

With new members rolling in tidal waves, gym regulars find themselves in flux. There is a man curling in the squat rack. Why is this woman shadow boxing with dumbbells? Half-assed reps are everywhere. Finding an empty locker (or parking spot) becomes impossible and most faithful fitness followers finish their workout and begin a countdown to February where most newbies retire their commitment and return to their homely couches. 

  
While it can be frustrating and downright infuriating to watch, I encourage all veterans to take the New Year to reflect. Where did you start? How did you feel? Are you proud of where you are now? 

I remember starting my fitness journey pushing 200lbs in February of 2012. I fumbled to find my member card to scan and scurried into the change room hoping no one would witness me change. I was embarrassed of how I looked and wasn’t comfortable in a gym setting with all these perfect bodies surrounding me. But I perservered. From cardio bunny to Iron Lady I’m proud of my progress. It’s all because I embraced the process and day by day, it got better. 

I was once the girl using the leg press as an overly complicated chair. I was the girl who smacked her head with a barbell trying skull crushers for the first time. I was even the girl who loaded on the weights and half-repped squats. I still hussled. I still went to the gym everyday. I made the same choice for change as I do today. 

So when you see embarrassing things in the gym, remember. Remember where you started. These people are making the same choice you did once upon a time. Let’s support one another and be kind in 2016. It could mean the world to someone just starting out. 

A Fat Kid’s Lament: Struggling with Overeating

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I’d like to say I’m a FORMER fat kid, but I still get the urge to eat a whole bag of chips or row of cookies almost daily. Overeating was what made me fat as a child, and it is something that I think a lot of people can relate to – whether you grew up fat or were #blessed with high metabolism.

I cannot stress enough how important nutrition is, especially when paired with fitness. Fueling your body correctly helps you get the most out of a workout and gets you results reliably and more quickly than exercise alone. After all, the real work in body sculpting happens not in the gym, but in the kitchen and meal time.

I’m not sugar-coating this when I say: anyone can go an workout for an hour. It takes true dedication and commitment to keep working at a diet that feeds your body – without overindulging.

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The holidays create the perfect scene for this crime. With cookies, chocolates, and tantalizing dinners tempting you with every waft of cinnamon and gravy, it is easy to succumb to temptation. I’ve crumbled under the massive cravings. And chances are, you have too. Here are a few ways to stay on track:

Log EVERYTHING

Nowadays, food logging has become very simple. There are probably thousands of apps for that, but the most popular is MyFitnessPal. MFP is great because it makes you feel super shitty for eating those leftover Halloween chocolate bars: If everyday were like today, you’d weigh 232lbs in 5 weeks. Um… thanks?

You can also kick it old school and keep a food diary. You’ll at least avoid the snide comments.

Prepare

If you know you will be heading to a buffet-style Christmas party/dinner with lots of opportunities to abandon your diet, eat before. If you feel full, you are less likely to be that jerk that ate four plates of turkey and mashed potatoes.

Preparation is also your best line of defense against lazy binge eating. Stay two hours later at work for a crazy deadline? Wave goodbye to your fav drive-thru, because you have a lovely prepared dinner at home that you made on Sunday! Meal prepping saves you time and money, allowing you to cook healthy meals that are diet-friendly!

Protein, BRO

I’ve been there. You find yourself wondering where the last hour has gone, as you stare at your grease-tinged reflection in the foil at the bottom of your Cheetos bag. You never felt full. You aimlessly ate that whole bag!

Maybe you aren’t eating enough protein. When I first got strict with my diet, eating 170g of protein made eating a chore. I felt perpetually full. You can get protein from all different kinds of sources:

  • Protein powder
  • Peanut butter
  • Protein bars
  • Chicken, Fish, Beef
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt

I love to even mix my protein powder with my Greek yogurt for an super protein snack. Protein fuels your muscles and also tells your stomach to kindly shut the fuck up.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Try, try again.

If you do end up overindulging, big whoop. Will that extra helping of stuffing matter 5 years from now? Probably not. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Dust yourself off and start fresh tomorrow.

If, however, overeating becomes a continuous problem, then maybe it’s your diet. I tried to eat clean, quit sweets cold turkey. Nothing ever worked for me. Instead, I find a structured, flexible diet works best for me. I can still eat the foods I enjoy as long as it fits my daily macronutrient goals. There are many other diets out there. Consider doing some research to find the magical fit for you.