Monday, September 4, 2017

A Month at Moksha

This month I started a thing.  I bought the introductory month membership at Moksha Yoga Burnaby.  Now just because I'm a fitness instructor, it doesn't mean I'm any better at making use of the fitness things that I spend my money on.  I've bought multiple gym memberships where I've gone once or twice, I have a few fitness dvds that have been viewed maybe 3 times (Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred, I'm looking at you!) and equipment that sits in the back of my closet.  But this time I decided to commit to my purchase.

Let's journey way back for a second into my first experience with hot yoga.  It was around 2009, and the first (I think) hot yoga studio in Saskatoon, SK - Hot Yoga On 20th - had just opened.  I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a while and we talked about it, and he said "we should go sometime!" I agreed, and suggested the following week. He was a bit caught off guard that his "sometime" became "next week", but he was game, and we bought our intro passes.

I don't remember much of the first 2 or 3 classes I took there, but a couple memories stand out.  The first being my friend whispering "OMG I'm going to die" as we walked into the 40 degree C room.  Yup, when they say HOT yoga, they're not messing around.  Most purpose-built hot yoga studios are somewhere between 36-40C.  The second thing I remember is during the class, as I was holding some standing pose (eagle, maybe...?) was "This is the absolute hardest I have ever worked while standing still" as the sweat poured off me and onto my mat.  I had a good few classes, but sadly I can't say it was something that stuck.  Why? Because life.  I was still in school, didn't own a car in a car-dependent city, and I got caught up with all the other things I was doing.

Fast forward to the present, about 8 years later, I found myself lying on my back, in a hot yoga studio next to another friend.  This time in Burnaby, BC.

This time I ended up here because of a free pass I got from attending Yoga on Tap at a local brewery.  I know what you're thinking "what is this magical combination of beer and yoga you speak of?" Well, at Steamworks Brewery every few months, an instructor from Moksha Burnaby comes in to lead a yoga class, while you get to enjoy a flight of beer!  Say Whaaaaaaa! Amazing, I know.  And to top it off, the $20 registration fee goes to charity.  If you're a lower mainland local, and this sounds like something you're interested in, they post when the next event is on their Facebook page.

So, back to my story.  After attending a class at the Moksha studio in Burnaby, I decided to get the one month introductory pass, and commit to going as often as I can in that month.  

Things that I'm hoping to achieve during my month at Moksha: progress and patience.  I've never really committed myself to my yoga practice, and I hope that by committing for a month, I will see some progress.  Not just in flexibility (although that would be nice), progress with my strength, flow, comfort in my own body, drinking more water, doing a "thing," and being part of a community.  Patience is a little bit more straightforward.  Patience with myself, my body and mind.  Letting myself be bad at things.  Somedays hating it and knowing that that's okay too.  

I'll update a few times throughout the month about how often I've gone, which classes I've tried, what I've thought, and how I'm feeling about the experience.  

If trying hot yoga is something you might like to try, here would be my tips for newbies.  

Drink Lots of Water
I know this one sounds obvious, but you are going to sweat.  A lot.  Even if you're not generally a sweater.  Drink water all day before you go, drink water during class, drink water after class.  Also, don't forget to eat.  This morning before going, I didn't have a sufficient breakfast, and I paid for it during class and felt terrible and light headed.  What "good" pre-class food is will vary for everyone, just don't show up stuffed, or on an empty stomach. 

Show Up Early
Your first class anywhere I encourage you to come early because usually there's some paperwork to fill out, it's a good time to talk with the instructor if you have any concerns, injuries, or medical conditions they should be aware of. But with hot yoga there's an extra reason you should be early. You should try to go into the studio and acclimatize yourself to the heat for a little bit before you start asking your body to start moving.  Go into the room, quietly lay out your mat, and sit or lie in a comfortable position until the class is ready to start.  

"Stay in your own lane"
Especially at hot yoga, you're going to see a variety of bodies, doing a variety of pose variations, wearing a variety of clothes (or lack there of).  Try not to worry about it, and focus on what you need to be doing for your best class.  A lot of people may be wearing shorts and sports bras.  If you're not comfortable wearing that, then don't.  Personally, I like wearing a tank top to wipe the sweat off my face without having to get out of a pose and reach for a towel.  Stop and drink water whenever you need to.  Take a break whenever you need to.  Hot yoga is a challenging experience, so if you need to be in child's pose when everyone else is in down dog, do it.  Remember, taking a modification or a break is much less "embarrassing" (ps. it's not embarrassing, it's smart, hence being in quotation marks), than passing out mid class (possibly embarrassing, but actually just dangerous, and now no one is having a good time).

Have you tried hot yoga before?  Did you love it or hate it?  What is the one thing that you wish you would have known before trying it?  Leave a comment below! 

Resources & Links
Find me
Instagram: @livfit_jill

Moksha Burnaby 
Instagram: @mokshaburnaby 

Steamworks Brewery
Instagram: @steamworksbeer
Facebook: Steamworks Beer

Hot Yoga on 20th
Facebook: Hot Yoga on 20th

Friday, July 1, 2016

BollyX Instructor Program & Training Review

Alright, quickly glossing over the super long gap since I've posted - yes I'm alive & well and still teaching fitness!  Now onto what I wanted to talk about today!

Leading up to the training
Alright, so to start from the beginning...I signed up for BollyX instructor training because I heard about it through the gym I teach at (Steve Nash Fitness World).  It was $99 (USD), sounded fun, and honestly, I was in need of some continuing education credits for my BCRPA certification (it's 8 CECs, pre-approved, in case you were wondering!)

Because I heard about the training about 2 weeks before the actual date, I didn't have too much time to look into it, but I figured that the price for the one day course was on point.  The one thing I did find out was that in order to teach BollyX, you are required to subscribe to their portal, which is a monthly fee of about $20 (USD). For this reason, I decided I wouldn't teach classes in the end, because I already have my Zumba ($30 USD) and Bellyfit ($20 CAD + tax) certifications that I am already paying monthly fees for.  

When you sign up for the training, they send you a link to their online portal.  The portal gives you a glimpse of what you'll have access to as an instructor, and some resources as a trainee.  Ideally, it's best to take a look through the sections you have access to prior to attending the training.  I did do a quick run through of all the steps that have video tutorials, and it definitely helped me learn more quickly on the day of the training.  

Already by looking at the portal, I was impressed by some of the things that BollyX was doing.  They have video break downs for the most common steps in the different styles, they have a video on class introductions (ie. what you should be saying before EVERY class - I feel like this could be a whole blog post on it's own...and I just might have to do that sometime in the future!), and it also had a video tutorial on the "wide squat" position that is commonly seen throughout the class. 

My two biggest concerns going in to the training were that I wouldn't have the cardio endurance to get through the class confidently, and the instructor fees in order to teach BollyX. 

Training Day

Master Class
Alright, so I'ma just start this by saying I'm still bad at giving myself enough time to not only get places in Vancouver, but giving myself to find enough time to park, and find where I'm going.  Sooo...needless to say by the time I got to the training facility, I was late, stressed out, and grumpy (because I feel I should be better at this by now!!)

As with most trainings of this nature, the day started with a full BollyX class - for which, I was about 5-7 minutes late.  Luckily, it was easy enough for me to jump into the warmup section of the class, and my mood improved drastically once I started moving. 

For anyone who hasn't done a training program like this before, I highly recommend bringing 2-3 full changes of clothes (right down to your underwear!) because you will be sweaty.  And then you will freeze.  Changing after the class, and again at lunch is usually a good plan.  

The structure of the day was great.  The beginning of the day gets into a bit about the course, and then the bulk of the training is spent learning the key steps in Bhangra, Western Folk, and Bollywood dance styles.  After lunch, we spent time learning how to cue and pre-cue, and starting to practice the choreography for the exam (more on this in a bit...)  

What I really loved about the day is that it really was a good use of the 8 hours because the course is about teaching instructors how to teach BollyX classes.  I've taken other courses where far too much time is spent on marketing, the company itself, legal mumbo jumbo with respect to trademarks, etc. which is not a good use of time when you want people to be teaching safe classes that offer a consistent experience.  

Speaking of the exam - to become a full BollyX instructor, you're required to submit a video for feedback.  The easiest thing to do is to submit it at the end of your training day.  The trainer will film you teaching the one song that you have been working on throughout the afternoon and submit it for you.  This is another reason it's a good idea to check out the portal before you show up for training - the exam song and choreography are available to start learning.  

The purpose of the exam is largely to obtain feedback for yourself as an instructor.  What the BollyX team is looking for in your video is rhythm/musicality, pre-cueing, general grasp of technique (mostly that it's a high impact format and you can demonstrate this - if high impact isn't your jam, they have a low impact version, BollyX LIT as well), and a good handle on the choreography.  

My favourite thing about the one song format - it's easy to complete, it reduces anxiety because you don't have to memorize a whole class of material, and it allows the BollyX team to provide you feedback quickly so that you're not practicing the same mistakes over and over!! 

I know that it might seem intimidating to film and submit your exam at the end of the training, but it's a good way to obtain feedback quickly and become a better instructor. *note - at this point I haven't received feedback yet if I've passed or not! Although my guess is that I did pass...* I was feeling nervous about the exam before the training, but by the end of the day, it was no big deal. 

I was a little bit surprised when I showed up *late* to see Shahil Patel (one of the co-founders of the program) teaching the class. At the time, I didn't really know who he was...except that he's the guy! (scroll back up to the top image...that's him right there in front ;)  Throughout the course of the day we got to find out his story (to find out more, click on his name which will link you to his bio on the BollyX page), and I found him to be a fantastic trainer, very knowledgeable, obviously passionate, extremely personable, and a lot of fun. 

The training was at the Marine Drive Steve Nash Fitness World.  In terms of transportation, relatively easy for most people to get to by transit or driving.  A few options for food close by.  My biggest problem is with the group fitness room itself.  The size of the room was alright, but it was an irregular shape with a giant pillar awkwardly placed (poorly designed group fitness studios really drive me crazy!!)

The manual for the course is short, but good.  I think it's something like 25 pages, which is great because it only covers the necessities, and it's something that I'm more likely to reference in the future.  Additionally, BollyX is one of the most technologically advanced fitness programs out there, and everything else you might possibly need is on the portal. 

This is an interesting topic.  Unlike other programs with monthly subscriptions/fees, BollyX does not provide music to their instructors.  Originally when I learned this, I was annoyed.  

The cons of this are:
- it's an added expense on top of paying for the portal subscription
- it's more work for the instructor to actually go get the song herself

When I thought about it more, I came up with a lot more pros which are:
- you only need to buy the music you intend to use (but you can access all of the choreo on the portal and then choose what you want to use)
- the song is the original, not some chipmunk fitness version of it
- you might already own some of the "Western" matches of the songs (i.e. top 40 type stuff)
- you can direct your participants to the music for themselves if they really want it for their personal listening pleasure

I had an initial knee-jerk reaction to be upset about this just because it's new to me, but after weighing the pros and con, it's really not a big deal.  Basically, I feel like this was a good "work around" for the BollyX company to get the program out there without having to jump through all the legal hoops to deal with music licensing that would have been very costly and time consuming.  Is this likely to change in the future? Quite possibly, I think that with a growing community of instructors, the benefits of dealing with music licensing might be worth it. 

I know that this sounds like a silly thing to be excited about, but at the end of your training day, you get a tee shirt or tank top (for which you indicate your size and preference when you register).  This is the first training that I've received swag of any kind - and I currently have taken about EIGHT other specialty courses!  It's exciting to walk away at the end of the day with a bright yellow BollyX tank, not to mention how brilliant it is on their part for marketing purposes!  ;)  Seriously, how sharp is the pic of our little training group here?!  

Closing thoughts
Whooooo! Congratulations for making it all the way through this and thanks for sticking with me! Overall I was impressed by the planning and foresight that this company has put into the BollyX format, the training course, the instructor materials, and  the marketing and branding. 

For portal fees, you can be signed up for $20/month, or $200/year, and they just ran a promotion for $120/year (all USD).  Even though I originally wasn't planning to teach this format, I have just subscribed for the $120 annual subscription because I really do think that BollyX has a great thing going and that they're moving in the right direction.  I'm very excited to see what the future holds for this program and the company!

Additionally, they have a referral program where the person who referred you receives credit for the portal, merchandise, etc.  If you're going to sign up for the instructor training, I would love for you to add my name as the person who referred you - Jill Nadon.  

If you're looking for more information, trainings, or classes near you, please be sure to check out the website 

*I did not receive any product or financial compensation to review the BollyX instructor training program.  The opinions expressed are my own and based solely on my personal observations and experiences while attending this course*

Monday, October 6, 2014

Raise the roof for Push Ups!!

This week we're just going to get right to the point.  Under the microscope today: push ups.

Why Do Push Ups?

Push ups are a great full body exercise that can be scaled and is equipment-less.  Push ups can be made easier by inclining your upper body, or harder, by inclining the lower body.  Not only does the chest get a good workout, but the shoulders, back, and core muscles all play a role.


Shoulders – Just like the rows we looked at, you want to remember to keep your shoulders “back and down”.  There’s a tendency to push up between the shoulder blades, or sink down creating a gap – we want to keep the shoulder blades level 

Hand placement – Generally your hands should be fairly wide.  The exact placement is dependent on your body’s physiology.  For some people a really wide stance will be more comfortable, for others, a little bit closer feels more natural.  Splaying the fingers wide and pressing into the pad where your fingers connect to the hand will help take some of the pressure off the wrists.  Alternatively, push ups can be done with fists to avoid excessive wrist flexion.  Starting out, the wrists may be quite weak, but over time they will get stronger too.  Doing push ups is one of the best ways to strengthen the wrists for doing push ups.

Core – Core engagement is (always) uber important.  When you “engage your core” you want to keep your spine from excessive arching or rounding.  To get a little bit more core work out, brace your core – which is akin to making your stomach tight, like someone is going to punch you in the gut.  If you feel lower back pain when doing push ups, it’s likely that you are letting your tummy & hips sag and your back is arching - try finding a more neutral spine position.


Sharp shooting pain is always bad.  If this occurs in any movement you are doing, stop doing that movement and seek professional help before attempting to do that movement again. 

As mentioned above, you might have some discomfort in the wrists or lower back when doing a push up.  Try strengthening your wrists by decreasing the intensity of your push up and working your way back up.  Issues in the low back are likely due to poor alignment of the spine.  Bring the midsection up slightly, and hold in place using the core muscles. 

Push ups are a body weight exercise and therefore, the more you weigh the tougher it will be.  It’s important not to concern yourself with what other people are doing and work at your own level.  The numbers vary according to which study you look at, but push ups from your knees use about 50-60% of your body weight, where as from your toes is approximately 65-75%. 


The variations listed below range in intensity/difficulty from least to most difficult.

Wall Push up – Wall push ups lessen the load by reducing the incline of your body.  Just like you would a regular push up, place your hands wide against the wall, keeping your core tight and your shoulder blades even, lower your body by bending at the elbows to 90 degrees, and push yourself up, being gentle on the elbows at the top (ie. Don’t slam yourself to the top – this is hard on the joints!).  As you come down the elbows should be out to the sides, away from the body.  Over time, walk the feet further away from the wall, and increase the angle of your body.

Knee Push ups – The next step up is a push up from your knees.  All the same tips apply, being sure to keep a straight line from the top of your head to your tail bone throughout the whole movement.

Standard push up – Same as on your knees, but instead, you’re on your toes!  To start out here, spreading your legs wider apart can help with balance and stabilization.  To make this one harder, incline your feet with a step, or a chair.

There are many ways to “play” with push-ups!  In addition to the options listed above, elements like instability (Swiss ball/bosu), offsets (one hand/foot raised), and plyometrics can be thrown in for an extra challenge.  If you need more ideas, check out some of these on one of my favorite sites Breaking Muscle.  The push up is a great full body exercise whether you’re doing your first one or your millionth one.  

What level of push up are you working on? Share in the comments below!! 

Monday, September 22, 2014

I'm Bringin' Sexy Back

Continuing with last week's musical intro, I bring you sexy back - aka start doing more rows! 

The Row

Rows come in many forms, but the ultimate goal is the same, strengthen the upper back muscles.  I mentioned how squats have been replaced by chairs in our modern Western culture, but chairs and office jobs are also taking their toll on our back and spines.  When we sit all day at a computer we round forward, our chest gets tight, and our back muscles (among other things) get weak.  We start looking hunched over, and may end up with back pain, or other issues due to the imbalance. 

There are a variety of rows that you can perform – seated, bent over, single arm, rowing machine, inverted row, etc. – but the majority of them work the same muscles:

Why Row?

We spend so much time looking in the mirror that we tend to focus on what we can see.  Exercises like push-ups, squats, abdominal exercises, and biceps curls are often in the limelight.  They work the muscles we can see, and hey, it’s awesome looking at your bulging biceps as you lift that heavy box, don’t pretend that you haven’t done it.  But things in our bodies tend to come in pairs, and everything on your front side has a counterpart on the backside.  These are the muscles we forget to work.  When our bodies become imbalanced, injuries and pain can occur. 

Rowing is great for better posture and alignment, balance between front and back, as well as core engagement. 


Because there are so many types of rows that target the back muscles, I’m going to give some general technique tips, and some more exercise specific instructions when I discuss variations.

Shoulders – There are two key things that you want to remember when it comes to your shoulders for rows “back and down”.  Now if you’ve ever had a trainer or instructor say these words to you and you don’t know what they mean, pay attention. 

Back: this cue is intended to get you to slide your shoulders towards the back wall, and slightly together – think “the opposite of hunching forward”.  The motion throughout the row should be focused on sliding the shoulder blades closer to one another, like they’re laced like a corset and someone is tightening those laces, bringing the two sides closer together.  If you’re not bringing your shoulder blades together (scapular retraction, if you like fancy words), you’re going to be using mostly your biceps/triceps and not strengthening your back. 

Down: this refers to not shrugging your shoulders.  It’s really hard to do a proper row when your shoulders climb towards your ears.  Slide the shoulders away from your ears, and remember that everyone looks better with a little more neck!

Neck – whatever version you’re doing, make sure your spine is in a neutral position.  If it’s a bent over row or a single arm dumbbell row, this means you’re looking at the floor, not at your flashy shoes or in the mirror.  If you need to see yourself, turn sideways and look sideways (in a mirror).  If you’re doing an inverted row, you still want a neutral spine – don’t let your head flop back and don’t curl your chin to your chest. 

Core – Core engagement is uber important here.  When you “engage your core” you want to keep your spine from excessive arching or rounding.  To get a little bit more core work out of this one, brace your core – which is akin to making your stomach tight, like someone is going to punch you in the gut 


Sharp shooting pain is always bad.  If this occurs in any movement you are doing, stop doing that movement and seek professional help before attempting to do that movement again. 

Depending on the variation of a row you are doing, so may put more strain on the lower back than others.  Exercises like a bent over or dead row are more likely to experience lower back fatigue than an exercise like a single arm dumbbell row, or a seated row.  If you have lower back problems, start with rows that put less stress on the back until either your core is strong enough to properly support other forms of rowing or your back issues have been addressed and solved by the appropriate health care practitioner. 


Seated row – Seated rows can be done with cables (those pulley contraptions in the gym with the big stack or weights on them) or tubing.  The idea is the same – sit tall, grab the handles (for tubing, the middle of it will be wrapped around your feet) and pull your elbows back against your ribcage while bringing your shoulder blades closer together.

Similarly, both exercises can be executed standing, maintaining good spinal stability, and performing the same motion. 

Dumbbell row the dumbbell row is also a good introduction into the world of rowing.  Placing one hand on a bench provides more support for the back, and dumbbells are very accessible and “non-threatening” if you’re new to the weight lifting scene. 

In this version, your supporting arm is placed on the bench with the wrist under the shoulder, and your elbow with the weight pulls up towards the sky.  When your arm is at the bottom position, keep the shoulders level (ie that arm shouldn’t hang down too far below the other one!)

A similar movement can be added to a plank for more of a challenge.

Inverted row – Inverted rows are great for using just body weight, and can be a good progression towards a pull up.  The other thing I love about these is you can do them just about anywhere.  Below is a picture of someone using a bar, but you can use a sturdytable or desk 

This can also be performed with suspension straps (like TRX) or on a swing in the park.

Start with hands wider than the shoulders, and pull body up towards hands.  Again, slide the shoulder blades together, and keep your shoulders away from your ears, and avoid rounding the shoulders forward at the bottom.

  Bent over row – a bent over row is a little more complex, and can be done with either a barbell or dumbbells.  Folding forward from the hips until the bar reaches approximately knee level, row the bar into the body, pulling the elbows back and the shoulder blades together.  The bar should be close to the legs, and following the same angle as the thighs.

Pull ups/chin ups – all of these exercises are great progressions to get yourself closer to being able to do a chin up.  I’m definitely not there yet myself, but if this is a goal for you, Steve over at Nerd Fitness has a great post all about how to get there!!  You’ll see that dumbbell rows and inverted rows are the first two steps! So get rowing!!

What's your favorite back exercise? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, September 15, 2014

I'm all about that bass!

Yeah, it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two
But I can shake it, shake it
Like I'm supposed to do
'Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chaise
And all the right junk in all the right places

Clearly Meghan Trainor knows where it's at!  In the world of backsides, squats are king.  There are a million and ten reasons to squat and that many more variations on the squat.

The Squat

Squatting is a natural human movement but in our Western society, sitting in chairs, it has been eliminated our lifestyle.  Look at babies, they do full squats all the time.  Other cultures squat when eating, giving birth, using the toilet or as an alternative to sitting.  It’s a great fundamental strength training exercise and good for mobility.

Why Squat

Squatting is a lot of bang for your buck:

  •  It’s a multi-joint movement, meaning you’re hitting more muscle groups
  • Requires a lot of stabilization – your abs, obliques, and other core muscles play a role
  •    It exercises a large range of motion and improves/maintains hip and knee mobility
  • It builds muscle, burns fat, boots endurance, and contributes to bone health


Myth: Squats are bad for your knees/hips/lower back!

False.  Done incorrectly they can be "bad for you", but so can any exercise that’s improperly executed.  If you have injuries that would prevent you from being able to do a proper squat – you should get your non-squatting self to physiotherapy to try to fix the problem.

Myth: I’m going to get giant legs/butt!

False. Women do not have the testosterone to get man-like muscles.  Even for men to pack on muscles, other factors such as diet are extremely important to make that happen.  Your genetics play a role too.  You’re not gonna end up with a J-Lo booty if you’re not genetically set up for it, and if you are, your butt was probably big to begin with. 

Ready to give it a try?


Foot position:  Generally, feet should be slightly wider than hip distance.  If your feet are too narrow, you won’t be able to hit full depth, if your feet are too wide, you’re going to risk groin and knee injury as you struggle to push yourself back to standing.  Each person will have a stance that feels more comfortable than others.  Sometimes the stance can be altered (ie. More narrow or wider than “normal”) for particular training purposes.  Toes will point outwards, about 10-30o.  This will vary by personal comfort and your unique body.

Knee position: Your knees are going to point out SLIGHTLY following that 10-30o guide of your toes.  Where ever your toes are pointing, that’s where you want your knees to be pointing.  The knees are going to stay in line with the toes, and not collapse outward (rolling past your toes) or collapsing inward (towards each other).  Often you’ll hear the cue “Keep your knees behind your toes”.  This isn’t always true, but it’s not inaccurate either.  The objective of this cue is to get you to sit your hips back towards your heels.  If you have the majority of your weight forward in your squat, your hips will be forward, and your knees will slide in front of your toes, and your heels are going to come off the floor.  However, some people have long thigh bones, or small feet (or both?!) and their personal anatomy may result in their knees over their toes, which might be fine for that individual’s proportions. 

Head position: We’re aiming for a neutral line in the spine.  Your head shouldn’t be craned upward, or down at your feet.  Looking up puts too much stress on your cervical spine, while looking down means you’re likely to start rounding forward in your shoulders, losing proper upper body positioning.

Motion:  As you squat down, lower your hips back, bending at the knees.  Hip flexion (folding forward at the hips) should happen naturally as a result of the knee bend and hips descending.  Do not let the chest drop towards the thighs, keep the shoulder blades pulled towards each other and chest lifted (if you have writing on your shirt, it should still be readable). Don’t let the knees fall in.
In the bottom part of your squat you want your hips to be just at/almost at your knees.  Some people have the flexibility to lower their glutes all the way down to their ankles, however hips below knees is ideal.  In this position you achieve the most glute activation and it’s the safest for your knees.
Come up smoothly, the same way you came down.  As you get to the top, be careful not to jam your knees by straightening them with a lot of force. 

Not hitting depth – if your body hasn’t done a squat since you were a baby, balance, stability and mobility might make this movement very difficult at the beginning.  BUT if you don’t get your hips to you knee joint level, this movement will be quadriceps dominant, which can cause a muscle imbalance between the quads and the hamstrings.  Muscle imbalances are one of the leading causes of pain and injury.

Photo from

Weight on your toes/lifting your heels – your heels need to stay on the ground the entire time to drive through them and come back up.  When your weight slips too far forward onto your toes, your knees will start taking the brunt of the weight instead of your super strong hip joints. 

Knees falling in/out – you’re the strongest when your joints are properly aligned.  This was discussed in knee positioning earlier, but don’t let the knees fall in or outward.


Only after you’ve MASTERED the body weight squat should you attempt to move on to these variations, with maybe the exception of the TRX squat.

TRX assisted squat – Using the TRX suspension straps, you can achieve the same squat, and get nice and deep without having to worry about balance.  Holding onto the handles also helps keep the chest lifted.  The suspension straps can also be used to help with balance when working on a pistol squat.

Goblet Squat – A goblet squat uses a single weight in front of the body.  This variation is a great place to start adding weights.  Kettlebells work fantastically for this.  Holding the weight with both hands, lower down into a squat and try to keep the elbows inside the knees.

Front Squat – The front squat is one option when adding a barbell to your squat.  The benefit in adding weight to your upper half is that it increases core engagement and utilization.  This position however requires a fair bit of wrist flexibility.

Back Squat – the back squat is one of the most common variations you’ll see. It’s similar to the front squat, but here, it is extra important that the spine have its natural lumbar curve (not rounded) because the extra weight will cause extra stress on the back when it’s in this weak (improper) alignment.  It’s very important not to let the chest dip down and fold towards the floor because that puts a lot of stress on the lower back.

So there you have it!  If you're strapped for time, or just need something big to add to your workout, try some squats!  

Why do you love doing squats, and what's your favorite (or least favorite!) variation?  Let me know in the comments! 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Friday, July 4, 2014

What to drink when you go PALEO

Right now the whole idea of the Paleo Diet/Lifestyle is pretty popular.  It's something that I personally try to follow, and feel good doing.  If you don't know what the paleo diet is, well, it isn't a "diet" in the conventional sense as in "eat this and don't eat that to lose weight" but the term diet is used as "the food we eat".

Lots of people/websites/etc. describe it as "eating like a caveman" which I don't necessarily agree with because that would mean that we can only eat the things that are local to our area and for me, living in the Canadian prairies, I would not be able to consume many of the "paleo" versions of our modern food floating around on the internet.  Anyway, I don't need to go into great detail about what paleo is all about because Steve over at Nerd Fitness does a good job of it here and as a bonus, there's pictures of lego men.  Go check it out as soon as you're done here.

What I found I had questions about was "what does one drink when on the paleo diet?"  Well here's a bit of a do and don't list for beverages that may or may not be paleo.  Please note that this isn't a comprehensive list, and different people have different views on some things.

Paleo "Approved" Beverages
Water - obviously
Coconut Water - personally, not something I'd go out of my way to consume, but others love it.
Herbal tea - hot or cold. Unsweetened, ideally, use honey if you must.
Fruit juice - best if you can juice it yourself.  If not, watch out for added sugar, and other unnecessary ingredients. Drink it in small amounts, and/or water it down.
Almond milk - same as fruit juices, best if you can make your own, watch out for sneaky ingredients.
Coconut milk - Generally not something that most people would drink "straight up" however it can be an awesome additive to things like coffee, tea, or recipes.  Like almond milk, read the label, watch for mystery ingredients.  If you don't know what it is, it's probably not paleo.
Soda water - see, this is one where I think "A cave man would never drink that" and if that's your guideline for being paleo, well then don't drink it.  Other people think it's okay.  Use some type of logic that makes sense for you, and works for you to determine if you should drink it.
Flavor Infused Waters - these are AWESOME.  Add anything you like to water - lemons, cucumbers, raspberries, mint, etc. to make your own flavored water.  Check out these suggestions from Jamie Oliver here.  Move over Mio, we're making our own flavored water (p.s. Mio isn't case you didn't know....)
Aloe Vera juice - again, definitely not something I would go out of my way to drink, but it's paleo.
Bone broth - bone broth gets huge props in the nutrition department.  Lots of paleo peeps like to drink it by the mugful as a hot beverage for a cold day.  Made from cooking the bones (typically beef) in water, this drink provides you with a satisfying drink full of gelatin-y goodness.  Check out how to make your own in a slow cooker from nom nom paleo!

Paleo "No-No" Beverages
Animal Milk - the image of a caveman chasing down a cow/goat makes me giggle.  If you choose a more "primal" diet, you may decide you want to consume animal milk.
Soda Pop - I think this one is pretty obvious
Sports Drinks - Mostly sugary and completely unnecessary, unless you're a high performance athlete (think Olympic level) chances are fruit juice and water in a 1:1 ratio will meet your athletic hydration needs for the average person.  Coconut water is toted to be a pretty good substitute for this same purpose too.
High-sugar anything - again, kinda self explanatory.
Beer, wine, most alcohol in general - sorry.

Coffee - this one can be a bit of a grey area, but a lot of people think it's okay, others would argue that'it's not.  Generally if coffee is consumed, it should be done in moderation.

I hope this gives you a good selection of things you CAN drink.  Of course neither list is exhaustive or hard and fast rules to the paleo lifestyle, but it should give you a good place to start.

The beverages you choose to consume may also be linked to your goals of being on the paleo diet.  Maybe you have a gluten intolerance, maybe you are aiming to lose some body fat, maybe you don't know yet.  Keep in mind your goals when choosing what you drink.  Even homemade fruit juices can contain a lot of sugar, and so if your goal is to lose some weight, you will want to drink these in moderation.

I'd love to hear what your favourite paleo drinks are - let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Diet Bet

Have you heard of Diet Bet?  It's a service where weight loss becomes a game and you get to win (or lose) actual money. 


Every since I heard about it, I've been on the fence about the whole idea.  In this article I'm going to outline what I think the pros and cons of this site are.  I will add the disclaimer now that I have never participated in a diet bet, and I'm neither condoning or condemning it, simply outlining some information and my opinions on it. 

How it works:
You sign up - you can either start your own "game" or join an existing one.  Cool ideas for this couple be things like a company challenge, bridesmaids looking to lose weight before the wedding, big families, your favorite blogger creating a challenge, etc. 

You put money (typically $25, but it can vary by group) into the pot.

You weigh in.  They have some rules and criteria for weighing in, and you also have to submit a photo.  They have some measures in place to try to prevent cheating.

You do what you want to attempt to meet your goal.  There are 2 kinds of diet bets - one is 4% of your body weight in 4 weeks, the other is 10% in 6 months

You weight out.  Again, there are certain requirements and measures to try to prevent cheating. 

All participants in that pool who met the goal are the winners and the pot is split between the winners. 


Like everything out there, there are a number of pros and cons about this system.

money- We live in a society where obesity is running rampant and quick fixes and empty promises are everywhere.  We all know that the individual must choose to make changes, but we aren't always motivated to do the work.  Diet Bet makes people individually responsible for themselves and provides monetary incentive to lose weight.  Diet Bet is not a "eat our food and you'll lose weight" system, and doesn't provide you any magic beans to losing weight. They simply provide motivation. This is a pro in my book.
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- Probably my favorite feature of Diet Bet is the element of community.  We all know it's hard to go it alone, and by creating groups there's both support and the element of competition.  You can compete again strangers or people you know.  I think this is awesome.  Another point for Diet Bet.

- Monetary incentive.  This is definitely a fun element to the game.  Most of us spend $25 on "junk" but the winning potential can be pretty big.

- They don't tell you how to lose weight. Diet Bet lets you decide how to best lose weight for yourself.  Everyone is different and this allows people to do what works for them. 

- The goals are set in percentages.  It's definitely a tricky thing to define - how much weight to lose. Obviously it's not fair to specify a number of pounds, and so doing it by a percent of your body weight is the most fair way to do it.  Choosing this value is also the "easiest" for the average joe (as opposed to % of body fat or other measures that would indicate health/fitness)

- The goals in a Diet Bet are "SMART" goals. 
S - Specific? Yes.  Lose 4% of your body weight (maybe not specific in HOW to do it, but I'll let that go, as it's a pro listed above)
M - Measureable? Yes.  The measurement of the goal is part of Diet Bet.
A - Achievable?  Generally, yes depending on how mush weight you have to lose. For a 150lb person, you're looking at 1.5lbs per week. 
R - Realistic? Generally, again, this depends on how much you have to lose.  If you're 150lbs with high percentage of body fat, 4% of your weight is 1.5lbs per week, and realistic.  If you're like me, and around 150lbs with a high percentage of lean muscle mass, seeing the number on the scale drop is more difficult.  Additionally, a 300lb person is looking at 3lbs a week, which is starting to be high for long term, healthy weight loss, in my opinion.
T - Timely. Yes. There is a time frame set out that's fairly appropriate for the goal. 

-Diet Bet has recently added a second kind of bet where players try to lose 10% of their body weight over 6 months.  I really like this option because it promotes long term changes.  Again, in the example of the 300lb person, you're now trying to lose 30lbs in 26 weeks (1.15lbs/week) which I think is a better, safer goal and is more likely to set that person up for long term change and success. 

- Diet Bet is strictly weight based.  While it's understandable that the number on the scale is the easiest to compare, it's not the only factor in getting healthier.  Inches, body fat %, and numerous other factors are also (perhaps better?) indicators of health and fitness. 

- Again, because it's only weight based, people with higher percentages of muscle mass or those who gain muscle mass during the bet are at a disadvantage. 

- I couldn't find much information (blog articles, links, etc.) to losing weight.  While a pro listed above that Diet Bet doesn't tell you HOW to lose weight, it would be nice to know that they provide some solid advice on how to do it in a healthy fashion.  I would be concerned that certain individuals would go to extremes to win.

- Some people are just not in a position to succeed in a Diet Bet.  I stated above that I have never participated in a diet bet.  That's because I know that the likelihood of me losing 4% of my body weight in 4 weeks isn't very attainable due to my body composition and my body's disposition to gain muscle mass.  It would be a $25 donation to other people.  Other people who are not idea candidates would be people who would take extreme unhealthy measures to lose weight, individuals that lack knowledge of how to drop pounds in a healthy nature, or people with pre-existing medical conditions.

So there you have it.  While Diet Bet is not something I intend to participate in...ever, I'm not 100% opposed to the idea.  Will you ever see a Fitness with Jill dietbet? Not likely.  Like all avenues of getting healthy, it's not for everyone, but I can definitely see how some people can benefit from this.

Let me know, have you tried Diet Bet? Did you win? Would you recommend it to others? What do you think the pros and cons are? Share in the comments!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Winter Class Schedule 2014

This January we have all your favorite classes running again!

Muscle Sculpt
This class uses resistance tubing, step benches, and body weight to improve muscle strength, endurance & tone.  Over the 10 weeks, the class will take different formats which may include circuits, interval training, specific muscle group work outs.  All levels of fitness are welcome!  The class typically runs about 50-55 minutes, but trust me, that'll be all you need! Please bring a water bottle, towel, comfortable gym shoes and clothing.  Some participants prefer to bring their own yoga mat for comfort (mats are provided).
Mondays 7-8pm (10 weeks - January 13 - March 24. No class Feb 17)
St. Bernard Gym

**due to equipment restrictions this class is limited to 20 participants! Register ASAP to save your spot!**
Ditch the workout, join the party!! Zumba is an energetic fitness class focusing on a fun cardio vascular workout that sneaks in some toning moves here and there!  Simple easy to learn steps make this an all levels class for participants 18+! There is NO dance experience necessary and only one rule - have fun!  The new session means ALL NEW CHOREOGRAPHY - so whether you've taken my classes before or not, it's brand new for everyone! Please bring a water bottle, towel, comfortable gym shoes and clothing. 
Mondays 8-9pm (10 weeks - January 13 - March 24. No class Feb 17)
St. Bernard Gym
Bellyfit is a holistic fitness system designed just for women.  It is a dance based fitness class centering on the rhythms of bellydance, Bollywood, bhangra, and African dance.  In each class you will be presented with a consistent structure from warming up, cardio, cardio cool down, core work, and always finishing with a yoga/Pilates inspired stretch.  Bellyfit is a Canadian based program that is rapidly spreading around the globe!  By blending the power and wisdom of ancient practices, with the research, technology and trends of the modern world, Bellyfit classes offer much more than just 'a workout'.  Just like with Zumba, this session will have ALL NEW ROUTINES so it doesn't matter if you've taken Bellyfit before or not!  Please bring a water bottle, towel, comfortable gym shoes & clothing and your own yoga mat.  This class is ALL levels and offered for women only.
Thursdays 7:15-8:15pm (10 weeks - January 16 - March 27. No class Feb 20)
Ecole Lakeview Small Gym
**due to the location change this session the class is limited to 20 participants! Register ASAP to save your spot!**

I can't wait to start teaching these classes in a couple weeks - I hope I see you there!!  As always if you have any questions regarding classes, please drop me a line!